Turkey corruption inquiry: Ministers' sons charged

Protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, and demand his resignation over the corruption inquiry, December 18th 2013 Anti-government protesters want Mr Erdogan to resign over the corruption inquiry

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The sons of two Turkish government ministers have been charged in connection with a huge corruption investigation.

The head of the state-owned bank and at least a dozen other people also face charges.

The suspects are accused of abusing their power by taking or facilitating bribes.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the investigation as a "dirty operation" against his government.

'Dirty operation'

The controversial arrests began on Tuesday when police launched a series of dawn raids in Istanbul and Ankara.

On Thursday the head of Istanbul's police was forced from his position, and more than 30 senior police officers have reportedly been sacked.

The corruption investigation has targeted people close to Mr Erdogan's administration.

Baris Guler, the son of Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Kaan Caglayan, son of Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan was among those detained, as is the chief executive of the state-owned Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan.

They were put under formal arrest on Saturday morning.

The son of a third minister - Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar - was among those released after hours of questioning.

Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin (front) leaves the police headquarters in Istanbul (18 December 2013) The head of Istanbul's police, Huseyin Capkin (R), was dismissed on Thursday

Commentators in Turkey report that the arrests and firings reflect a feud within Turkey's ruling AK Party between those who back Mr Erdogan and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar living in exile in the US.

Members of Mr Gulen's Hizmet movement are said to hold influential positions in institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the AK Party itself.

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has accused Mr Erdogan and his government of trying to cover up the scandal.

Mr Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People's Party, called for ministers implicated in the investigation to be sacked.

The European Union has urged Turkey - which hopes to join the EU - to ensure the impartiality of its judicial process.

"These developments have naturally raised our attention and we follow them closely," said a spokesman for Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement and European neighbourhood policy, on Thursday.

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