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Published: Tuesday December 24, 2013 MYT 10:05:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 24, 2013 MYT 10:06:19 PM

Turkish president vows no cover-up in corruption scandal

Turkish President Abdullah Gul addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool

Turkish President Abdullah Gul addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Abdullah Gul sought to salve Turkish furore over a high-level corruption case on Tuesday by assuring the public there would be no cover-up and that the courts were free to investigate.

The remarks by Gul, a unifying figure in an increasingly polarised society, followed fresh curbs on the police and judiciary by the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has blamed the week-long scandal on a shadowy foreign plot.

The sons of two cabinet ministers and the boss of state-run Halkbank are among 24 people in police custody on graft charges. TV news images of cash-filled shoeboxes allegedly seized at suspects' homes have transfixed Turks still simmering from summer mass-protests against Erogan's rule.

"Turkey is not the same place compared to 10 or 15 years ago. Many reforms have been carried out, in politics as well as in the law," Gul said in his first remarks about the affair.

"In a country where such reforms have taken place, if there were corruption and mistakes they would not be covered up," he told reporters. He added that "the independent, objective and democratic legal system (will) adjudicate the allegations in a manner that will not leave any question marks".

Erdogan responded to the arrests by sacking or reassigning some 70 police officers, including the chief of the force in Istanbul.

At the weekend the government changed regulations for the police, requiring officers to report evidence, investigations, arrests and complaints to commanding officers and prosecutors. Journalists have also been banned from entering police buildings.

Erdogan has won three straight elections in Turkey, which has blossomed economically during his rule, and has transformed the country by curbing the power of the secularist military establishment.

He has also angered some Turks over what they see as an authoritarian streak, leading to mass demonstrations this year.

The Halkbank affair and his retaliation against the police have earned him newly vocal enemies, including an influential cleric with many followers in the police and judiciary.

(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Peter Graff)

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