Skip to main content

Turkey purges police force

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
updated 11:44 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
Turkish riot police patrol Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul amid clashes with protesters on December 27.
Turkish riot police patrol Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul amid clashes with protesters on December 27.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: News agency says officers removed in Ankara and at least nine other Turkish cities
  • Most of the purged police "were appointed to the traffic unit," state broadcaster reports
  • The mass reassignments come amid reports of new police raids in a corruption case
  • Firings, reassignments began after police detained dozens in anti-corruption case last month

Istanbul (CNN) -- In what appears to be a broader government purge of Turkey's police force, 350 police officers were removed from their positions in the capital of Ankara on Tuesday.

Police commanders were also removed from their posts in at least nine other cities around the country, the semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported.

According to Turkish state media reports, most of the police officers affected were working in departments that battle terrorism, smuggling and organized crime.

"The majority of the chiefs and police in question were appointed to the traffic unit," state broadcaster TRT reported on its website.

The mass reassignment of police officers came amid reports of a fresh wave of police raids targeting suspects in a corruption case in the port city of Izmir.

Turkish police use water cannons on crowds
Political turmoil in Turkey

The Turkish government first began firing and reassigning scores of police officers last month, after police detained dozens of suspects closely linked to the government in an anti-corruption investigation.

Amid corruption inquiry, Turkish prosecutor slams police

Police reportedly found large amounts of cash and a money counting machine in the home of the son of the interior minister, as well as shoe boxes full of cash in the residence of the director of the state-owned HalkBank.

On December 25, at least four Cabinet ministers implicated in the corruption scandal were forced to resign as part of a larger Cabinet reshuffle.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the investigation. He has repeatedly said it is part of an "international conspiracy" aimed at toppling his government. Erdogan also criticized police who carried out the raids, accusing them of operating outside the chain of command.

The government removed several prosecutors overseeing the investigation and briefly banned journalists from entering police stations.

In a highly unusual news conference last month, one of those prosecutors accused the government of obstructing the investigation and allowing suspects to flee and tamper with evidence.

Turkish police fire plastic bullets as anti-government protests rage

Other observers are sounding the alarm about the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, which is both a member of the NATO military alliance and a nation that's negotiating to join the European Union.

"The future of law enforcement, the separation of powers, the constitution is in danger," said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former member of parliament from Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party.

Kiniklioglu said the purge of the police force was part of the broader power struggle under way in Turkey between Erdogan and one of his former allies, a Turkish Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

"The government is trying to remove police officers it thinks are close to the Fethullah Gulen group from positions where they could launch investigations into other corruption cases," Kiniklioglu told CNN.

Gulen is the spiritual leader of an international empire of universities, businesses and media organizations. Until recently, he and his movement provided influential support to Erdogan during the prime minister's decade in power. Throughout this political alliance, some supporters of the reclusive cleric are believed to have assumed key positions in the Turkish police and judiciary.

Last month's arrests turned simmering tensions between Erdogan and Gulen into an open verbal war between the two most charismatic leaders of moderate political Islam in Turkey.

Erdogan and his deputies have openly denounced what they call a parallel state operating within the Turkish government bureaucracy.

Gulen has responded in a fiery video sermon announcing, "Those who don't see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don't see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people, then may God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unity."

The scandal has rattled Turkish markets. This week, the Turkish lira plunged to a record low against the dollar.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT