Middle East

Turkey police detain 11 in wiretapping probe

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained 11 people Tuesday, including former top officers, in a probe into illegally wiretapping Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, local media reported.

Police raided the homes of a dozen people in the capital Ankara, including the prime minister's former chief of guard and an ex-police chief, who could face charges of espionage for eavesdropping on Erdogan's office in 2012.

A total of 11 suspects were arrested and police were searching homes in four other cities including Istanbul, the Dogan news agency reported.

Erdogan had announced in late 2012 that "eavesdropping devices" had been found in his office as well as his home.

This year the prime minister came under pressure ahead of local elections in March when a series of audio recordings were published that appeared to put him at the heart of a vast corruption scandal implicating key government allies.

They included an apparent discussion between Erdogan and his son about hiding money, and others in which he appeared to be interfering in business deals, court cases and media coverage.

Erdogan has dismissed most of the recordings as "vile" fakes concocted by his rivals, including US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former staunch ally, whom the premier accuses of being behind the graft probe to undermine his rule.

The Turkish government has sacked thousands of police and prosecutors believed to be linked to the Gulen movement and banned Twitter and YouTube, which were used to spread the damaging audio recordings.

Despite the scandal, Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party scored a crushing victory in the March polls, boosting the premier's ambitions to run for president in August, the first time Turks will directly elect the head of state.





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