ISTANBUL : Turkish prosecutors have charged eight police officers with illegally eavesdropping on top officials including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media said Saturday.
The eight were charged with illegal wiretapping, as well as forging official documents, and were remanded in custody late Friday pending a possible trial, the state television channel TRT said. Over one hundred serving and former police officers were arrested last week in dramatic raids as part of the wiretapping probe.
Twenty-six officers have so far been released to the delight of their supporters, who insist the investigation was politically motivated, coming just ahead of the August 10 presidential election in which Erdogan is standing. The officers are accused of making up an investigation named “Selam-Tevhid” as cover to wiretap prominent figures since 2010, including Erdogan, journalists and cabinet members.
Prosecutors said earlier 2,280 people in total - of whom 251 were the main targets - had been illegally wiretapped for three years.
Many of those police officers arrested had been sacked by Erdogan’s government in a spectacular purge of the police forces earlier this year.
The investigation is the latest episode in the feud between Erdogan and his former ally, the US-exiled Fethullah Gulen, who the premier accuses of using his influence in the police and judiciary to instigate a corruption probe implicating key government allies.
Many of those allegations stemmed from leaked phone conversations involving Erdogan and other top officials posted on social media.
Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government has already sacked thousands of police and prosecutors believed to be close to Gulen, and tightened control over the judiciary and Turkey’s access to the Internet.
Erdogan has suggested that the investigation against Gulen supporters is set to widen.
Gulen, who left for the US in 1999 to escape charges of anti-secular activities by the government at the time, has denied plotting against Erdogan’s administration.