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Friday March 14, 2014 MYT 6:16:12 PM
Friday March 14, 2014 MYT 6:17:34 PM
by dasha afanasieva AND humeyra pamuk
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Twitter account behind a string of leaks in a Turkish corruption scandal posted late on Thursday what it presented as police files detailing graft allegations against four former ministers, dealing a further blow to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan weeks before elections.
The Twitter account using the pseudonym @HARAMZADELER333 posted links to a 299-page document and a 32-page document presented as police files from an investigation that became public on December 17 with a series of dawn raids.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the documents.
The former ministers have denied any wrongdoing.
Former interior minister Muammer Guler, former economy minister Zafer Caglayan and former environment minister Erdogan Bayraktar each saw a son detained on December 17 as police went public with their long-running corruption inquiry. All three resigned just over a week later.
Former EU minister Egemen Bagis was replaced in a reshuffle.
The corruption scandal has grown into one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's 11-year rule and comes as his AK Party is campaigning for pivotal municipal elections on March 30.
His government has reassigned thousands of police officers and hundreds of prosecutors, including some of those involved in the December 17 investigation, moves which his opponents say are aimed at blocking the inquiry.
Erdogan's aides have dismissed such claims, saying the new prosecutors would carry out their own investigations, draw up their own arguments and push ahead with the cases.
One of those new prosecutors has completed an indictment regarding the December 17 case, according to Hasan Sozen, a deputy chief prosecutor in Istanbul. Sozen told Reuters it would be sent to the relevant court once it had been formally approved.
OPPOSITION SEEKS PARLIAMENT RECALL
Guler and Caglayan echoed Erdogan in depicting the corruption inquiry as baseless and a conspiracy when they resigned, but Bayraktar turned against the prime minister, calling at the time for him, too, to quit.
Police files on the four ex-ministers were sent to parliament in late February, where a summary would usually be read aloud to deputies. However, the assembly went into recess for the election campaign period shortly afterwards and the files have been kept under lock and key ever since.
On Thursday, Turkey's opposition demanded a recall of parliament to hear the allegations against the four former ministers.
Erdogan has cast the graft scandal as a plot to smear him by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based former ally with influence in Turkey's police and judiciary.
Erdogan's advisers have said Gulen's network illegally tapped thousands of phones in Turkey, including the prime minister's, over a period of years to blackmail and concoct criminal cases as part of a campaign of covert influence over the state.
Erdogan has condemned the alleged eavesdropping, saying highly sensitive encrypted telephone conversations were tapped, and that images or video of the personal lives of senior figures may also have been obtained.
Gulen and his followers have denied orchestrating the corruption investigation and/or conspiring against the government.
The pro-government Star newspaper said on Friday police had identified 44 officers who made and leaked illegal recordings, over half of whom had already been removed from duty.
Interior ministry inspectors determined that police intelligence had been involved in irregular wiretapping, analysing the personal data of top officials including Erdogan and his family, the newspaper said.
(Humeyra Pamuk reported from Gaziantep, additional reporting by Daren Butler and Can Sezer; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Toni Reinhold/Jeremy Gaunt)
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