FaithWorld

Turkish PM Erdogan and Muslim cleric Gulen tangle over corruption scandal

December 24, 2013

(A demonstrator holds a shoe box, as a reference to reported shoe boxes of cash found in the house of Halkbank CEO Suleyman Aslan, during a demonstration against Turkey’s ruling Ak Party (AKP) and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara December 21, 2013. The sign at left reads: “Government has to resign.” REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

A war of words escalated on Monday between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and a cleric with powerful influence in the police and judiciary, worsening political turmoil unleashed by a corruption scandal.

Turkey has been increasingly polarised since the arrest on graft charges last week of the head of state-run lender Halkbank and the sons of two government ministers. Erdogan answered the arrests by sacking or reassigning the Istanbul police chief and some 70 other police officers.

The scandal and the government’s response have added to a febrile political atmosphere in the country, which saw unprecedented mass protests against Erdogan’s rule earlier this year.

The public has been riveted by the case, with news channels showing police footage of shoeboxes stuffed with millions of euros in cash allegedly found in homes of corruption suspects.

The lira currency hovered near a record low on Monday, hammered by the domestic political tension as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to cut back monetary stimulus.

In the latest rift, the government attracted unprecedented, open condemnation from Fethullah Gulen, whose Hizmet movement claims at least a million followers, including senior police and judges, and runs schools and charities across Turkey and abroad.

Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, lashed out against the government on Friday by praying that “God bring fire to their houses”. Erdogan shot back on Sunday with remarks that, while not naming Gulen directly, accused unnamed outsiders of “setting wicked and dark traps in our country, using their local pawns to disrupt Turkey’s unity and integrity.”

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