A midnight purge of 350 Ankara police officers has deepened worries that the political warfare shaking the country – which has pitted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) against judiciary and police figures linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen – will significantly erode the robustness and legitimacy of Turkey’s political institutions. A corruption probe driven largely by Gulenist police and judiciary figures has in recent weeks ensnared several AKP elites, and AKP figures have been responding by systemically removing hundreds of Gulen-linked figures from their posts. Monday’s midnight sweep in Ankara seems to have ousted all of the officers who had taken part in a critical December 17 anti-corruption operation.
The 350 were reportedly working in units specializing in terrorism, intelligence, organized crimes, financial crimes, cybercrimes and smuggling. Around 80 of those dismissed were police chiefs while the others were officers working at lower ranks, it added. The sweep also included a deputy head of Ankara’s police forces. Some 250 officers have reportedly replaced the relocated officers at the Ankara Police Department.
CNN reported that the Ankara action was matched by similar moves in at least nine other Turkish cities. Observers are describing the AKP’s retaliation in stark terms.
“The future of law enforcement, the separation of powers, the constitution is in danger,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former member of parliament from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Kiniklioglu said the purge of the police force was part of the broader power struggle under way in Turkey between Erdogan and one of his former allies, a Turkish Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. “The government is trying to remove police officers it thinks are close to the Fethullah Gulen group from positions where they could launch investigations into other corruption cases,” Kiniklioglu told CNN.
The Washington Post had already assessed that the political crisis risked severely damaging the legitimacy of Turkish political institutions, and CNN on Tuesday quoted former AKP parliament member Suat Kiniklioglu worrying that the “the future of law enforcement, the separation of powers, the constitution is in danger.” The point was echoed by Michael Clemens, a senior fellow and research manager at the Center for Global Development, who tersely described the resulting dynamic as one in which “corruption cannot be prosecuted” any longer in Turkey.
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