Turkish court releases five suspected in corruption scandal

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Demonstrators chant slogans as they protest against Turkey's Prime Minister and his ruling AK Party (AKP) government in Ankara on February 27, 2014, following a corruption scandal in which the Prime Minister has become embroiled. (Photo: AFP - Adem Altan)

Published Friday, February 28, 2014

Updated at 6:55 pm: A Turkish court on Friday released five people, including the sons of two ministers, who were detained on corruption allegations in mid-December in a high-profile probe that has rocked the government, local media said.

Baris Guler, the son of the former interior minister, as well as Kaan Caglayan, the son of the ex-economy minister, and Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab were among the last remaining accused freed pending trial, local media reported.

NTV news channel said the suspects were let go because the necessary evidence had been collected.

Guler and Caglayan had been charged with acting as intermediaries for giving and taking bribes, while Zarrab was suspected of forming a ring that bribed officials to disguise illegal gold sales to sanctions-hit Iran via state-owned Halkbank.

The men walked free two weeks after Suleyman Arslan, the former chief executive of Halkbank who was also caught up in the police raids, was released. He was accused of corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with illegal gold sales to Iran.

Police also seized $4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes from his home. In subsequent street protests against government corruption, citizens have waved empty shoe boxes as a symbol of their anger.

The corruption scandal has struck at the heart of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, posing the biggest challenge yet to his 11 years in power. The crisis has prompted a cabinet reshuffle and the two ministers whose sons were implicated in the scandal have resigned.

His Islamic-rooted government has more recently pushed through legislation tightening state control over the Internet and the judiciary, generating criticism at home and abroad and raising questions about the state of democracy in Turkey.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Friday asked the country's top Constitutional Court to repeal the law on judiciary curbs.

Erdogan has accused supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who wields considerable influence in the judiciary and police, of launching the probe as part of a plot against his government ahead of local polls in March.

Erdogan has retaliated by sacking or reassigning hundreds of police and prosecutors believed to have links to Gulen.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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