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Turkey: Police Clash With Protesters

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Police have fired tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets to disperse protesters in the Turkish city of Istanbul who have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a corruption scandal.

Police also moved to disperse antigovernment protesters in the capital, Ankara.

The protests came December 27 after a court blocked implementation of a new government decree that would require police to inform their superior officials about investigations.

Critics accused the government of trying to use the decree to stifle probes of high-level malfeasance.

In another development related to the deepening crisis, another three lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced their resignations Friday.

One of them, former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, spoke of what he called a "domineering and arrogant attitude" troubling the party.

Erdogan, meanwhile, has remained defiant, again telling supporters that the uproar against him was the result of a foreign conspiracy aimed at destabilizing Turkey.

Speaking to supporters at Istanbul airport after a trip to the provinces, Erdogan sought to portray the judiciary as overstepping its authority.

Turkish media reports say the corruption investigation involves alleged illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects, among other alleged wrongdoing.

Turkish media also this week published what they described as a prosecutor’s summons for Erdogan's son, Bilal, to testify as a "suspect" in the investigation. The authenticity of the reports was not immediately verified.

The crisis has a dealt a blow to the Turkish economy, with the lira currency weakening to a record low against the U.S. dollar and the stock falling.

The controversy erupted around the middle of December when police raids led to the arrests of 24 people, including the sons of three cabinet officials and the head of a state-run bank.

Seeking to contain the scandal, Erdogan this week reshuffled his cabinet, replacing 10 ministers.

The economy, interior, and environment ministers, whose sons have been implicated the scandal, resigned.

The European Union, in which Turkey seeks membership, has urged Erdogan's administration to address the corruption allegations in a "transparent and impartial manner.”

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a statement that there was "growing concern" over the developments in Turkey.

Fuele said the government directive to the police "undermined the independence of the judiciary and its capacity to act," and welcomed the court ruling rejecting it.

The crisis has erupted with Erdogan, who has been in power for the past 11 years, still unpopular with many Turks over what has been seen by critics as a heavy-handed response to antigovernment protests last June.

During his years in power, Erdogan has presided over economic growth. But he has faced regular criticism from opponents over what they see as an increasingly authoritarian style and for seeking to impose the conservative Islamic values of his Justice and Development Party.

With reports from AP, Reuters and AFP
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