Erdogan Defends Himself: Corruption Probe Aimed at Toppling My Government

Amid a corruption scandal which sends his government teetering, Erdogan says any attempt to implicate him in the affair will fail.

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Turkish prime minister says he believes he is the ultimate target of a corruption and bribery probe of his allies that has shaken the government.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of journalists that anyone attempting to enmesh him in the scandal would be "left empty handed." His comments were published in Hurriyet and Yeni Safak newspapers on Thursday.

Erdogan reshuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, replacing 10 ministers hours after three ministers, whose sons were detained in relation to the probe, resigned. One of those ministers called on Erdogan to also step down.

The ministers' sons were questioned over the scandal focusing on alleged illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects. Two of them were later arrested on bribery charges.

'Deep state'

Following the reshuffle, Turkey's opposition accused Erdogan on Thursday of trying to rule via a secretive "deep state."

"He (Erdogan) is trying to put together a cabinet that will not show any opposition to him. In this context, Efkan Ala has a key role," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the biggest opposition party CHP, said in remarks carried by Turkish media.

Efkan Ala, one of the 10 new loyalist ministers Erdogan named late on Wednesday, was a former governor of the restive Diyarbakir province who will wield the powerful Interior portfolio and oversee Turkish domestic security.

"Erdogan has a deep state, (his) AK Party has a deep state and Efkan Ala is one of the elements of that deep state," added Kilicdaroglu, using a term that for Turks denotes a shadowy power structure unhindered by democratic checks and balances.

During his three terms in office, the Islamist-rooted Erdogan has transformed Turkey, cutting back its once-dominant secularist military and overseeing rapid economic expansion. He weathered unprecedented anti-government protests that swept major cities in mid-2013.

But the corruption scandal has drawn an EU call for the independence of Turkey's judiciary to be safeguarded and has rattled stocks and the lira, with the currency falling to a historical low of 2.1025 against the dollar on Monday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing deputies at the parliament in Ankara, March 19, 2013. Credit: AFP

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