Turkish police have launched raids in Ankara and three other cities, detaining some 20 people suspected of illegally eavesdropping on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior officials, Turkey's state-run news agency reported Tuesday.
Local media said the move was aimed at President Tayyip Erdogan's ally-turned-foe, U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Broadcasters including CNN Turk said the raids, in four provinces including Ankara, were against the "parallel structure” — the term Erdogan uses to refer to Gulen's supporters in the judiciary, police and other institutions.
The suspects, detained early Tuesday, are linked to Turkey's telecommunications authority and to its scientific and technological research center, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. They are suspected of wiretapping phones, including encrypted ones used by government officials.
Last year, a corruption investigation targeting Erdogan's inner circle was based in part on wiretapped conversations that were leaked on the Internet, including one between Ergodan and his son.
Erdogan has insisted the tapes were fabricated as part of a plot orchestrated by followers of an influential Islamic movement led by Gulen. A Turkish court issued an arrest warrant in December for the Muslim cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Erdogan responded to the investigation with a purge of the state apparatus, reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors deemed loyal to Gulen, in what his supporters said was a cleansing of the cleric's influence.
Turkey's Western allies have reacted with alarm to what they see as signs of erosion of the rule of law. Four prosecutors who initiated the graft inquiries have been suspended, the court cases dropped and government influence over the judiciary tightened.
Parliament was set to vote on Tuesday on whether to commit four former ministers for trial over the corruption allegations, one of the last avenues of the investigation left open.