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Turkish PM among thousands targeted in phone-tapping - reports

25 February 2014, 02:59

Turkish police have eavesdropped on thousands of people including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as cabinet ministers, the country's spy chief and journalists, local newspapers reported on Monday.

Associates of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in the police and the judiciary have tapped the phones of Erdogan as well as politicians and businessmen for three years, pro-government dailies Yenisafak and Star claimed.

'This a sad and shocking event. The public is following this closely,' said government spokesman Bulent Arinc.

Erdogan has accused rivals in the influential Gulen group of acting as a 'state within a state' seeking to topple his government by instigating a high-level corruption investigation against close allies.

Classified documents revealing the surveillance were discovered by new prosecutors appointed after a mass purge of the police and prosecution service in the wake of the corruption probe launched in December, the press reports said.

When pressed on the allegations by local press, one of the former prosecutors denied that anything illegal had taken place.

'These allegations are entirely without foundation. Not a single illegal operation was authorised,' Adnan Cimen told newspaper Milliyet.

The Star reported that so-called Gulenists had wiretapped more than 7,000 people, as well as the headquarters of the opposition Republic People's Party (RPP), since 2011 on the pretext of trying to uncover terrorism plots.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that he had been wiretapped, adding: 'This is no longer a problem just for the (ruling) AK Party.'

Intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and one of his close allies were also among those targeted, along with many business people, activists and journalists, according to the newspaper reports.

Faruk Logoglu, a vice-president of the RPP who was reportedly one of those targeted, dismissed the claims as an attempt by Erdogan to 'support his rhetoric about a parallel state that he uses against the Gulen movement'.

The corruption scandal has thrown up one of the most serious challenges to Erdogan's 11 years in power ahead of key local elections in March.

The mass eavesdropping reports come as parliament began debating a new bill aimed at giving the intelligence agency a free hand in carrying out undercover missions and surveillance at home and abroad - without the need for a court order.

Erdogan has come under fire for what critics see as increasingly authoritarian policies, including curbs on the judiciary and the Internet.

Turkish riot police fire tear gas on protest over Internet curbs

Turkish riot police in Istanbul fired tear gas and water cannon Saturday at thousands of people protesting new legislation tightening control of the Internet. Police took action to push protesters away from the city's Taksim Square, a focal rally point, media report.

Protesters responded by hurling fireworks at police, who detained dozens of people, according to media reports.

The controversial law came into effect last Wednesday after it was signed into effect by the Turkish President Abdullah Gul despite repeated calls for veto.

It gives the telecoms authority the power to order a webpage blocked if the content is deemed to infringe privacy or is offensive.

The new curbs have sparked alarm at home and abroad, with critics saying they are an attempt by the government to stifle dissent and stop evidence of a high-level corruption being seen online.

Earlier Saturday, Erdogan again denied accusations of online censorship, to a crowd of several thousand supporters in the city of Sivas.

'We are not against the Internet, we are against the 'immoral' items on the Internet,' Erdogan said at a rally marking the kick-start of his party's local election campaign.

'We have just taken steps to prevent our children from being poisoned,' he said.

The legislation came as Erdogan deals with a wide-ranging graft scandal that erupted in mid-December, implicating his inner circle.

The embattled premier has accused US-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose supporters hold key positions in the police and the judiciary, of instigating the probe ahead of local polls on March 30.

His government has taken a series of retaliatory measures, including a mass purge of police and prosecutors and legislation reforming the judiciary.

But these measures, coupled with a heavy-handed police crackdown on protests last June, have severely dented Turkey's image as a model of democracy and stability in a volatile region.

Voice of Russia, AFP

Source: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_02_25/ Turkey-PM-among-thousands-targeted- in-phone-tapping-reports-8688/

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