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Gul Says He’s Working for Harmony in Turkey Amid Graft Dispute

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul
Turkey's President Abdullah Gul. Photographer: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said he’s working to ease the tensions raised by a corruption inquiry that has rattled the government, which blames an Islamist movement run by a former ally.

In an interview with BloombergHT television late yesterday, Gul said he’s trying to ensure that the “organs of the state work in harmony.” The probe has led three cabinet ministers to quit after their sons were caught up in it, and the government removed hundreds of top police officials as it fought back.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and allies say the investigation is an attempt by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, in the judiciary and police to undermine his party. A top judicial board has criticized efforts by the government to block further investigations.

Gul, who’s said by local media to have better relations with the Gulen movement than Erdogan does, said that the article in Turkey’s constitution that guarantees judicial independence is being neglected “as if it doesn’t exist.” He signaled discomfort both with the government efforts to rein in further probes and with the leaking of allegations against ministers to the press.

News of the 15-month secret investigation broke on Dec. 17, and the political upheaval it caused has unsettled investors. Turkey’s main stock index has dropped 15 percent in dollar terms in the past month, the most among global benchmarks.

Above Fray

Turkish presidents are supposed to remain above the party-political fray in what is a largely symbolic office. Gul, who is from the same Islamist-rooted party as Erdogan, has sometimes distanced himself from the premier since he became president in 2007.

Gul said he didn’t see a connection between protests that swept the country in June and the current graft investigation. Erdogan and allies have said that the probe is a continuation of efforts to unseat or weaken his government that began with those demonstrations, and have accused Gulen of controlling a “state within a state.”

It’s “out of the question” for state officials to “take orders from outside their institutions,” Gul said. He said such allegations should be investigated, though no one should be “presumed guilty in advance.”

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