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Turkey’s Erdogan Says Calls with World Leaders May Have Been Bugged

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ankara – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, embroiled in a scandal over leaked voice recordings, said on Wednesday his sensitive conversations with other world leaders may have been tapped as part of a campaign by his political enemies to discredit him. Erdogan is locked in a power struggle with U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally he says is behind a stream of “fabricated” recordings aired on the Internet and purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle.

Four more recordings have appeared on YouTube this week, part of what the prime minister sees as a campaign to sully his ruling center-right AK Party before local elections on March 30 and a presidential poll due later this year. “Our phone calls with prime ministers, presidents are listened to,” Erdogan told a meeting with Turkish media representatives in comments broadcast live on television.

“I talked to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin last night. Only international intelligence agencies are curious about the content of such a phone call. But here in Turkey, a prosecutor can prepare an arbitrary indictment and tap into such a call.”

Government officials say Gulen’s Hizmet network has built covert influence in the police and judiciary over decades and has been illegally tapping thousands of telephones for years to concoct criminal cases against its enemies and try to influence government affairs. Gulen has denied the accusations.

The tapping of calls with foreign leaders could prove embarrassing for Turkey, recalling the furor caused by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks suggesting the agency had monitored phone conversations of dozens of foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Erdogan – who has responded to the corruption scandal by reassigning thousands of police officers, asserting more government control of the courts and tightening Internet restrictions – suggested he expected more leaks, potentially of a more personal nature. “I want to stress that there is not only wiretapping, but visuals are also being carried out,” he said.

“Taking pictures and videos of family relations, or relations outside the family, violates all privacy rules. And if these images give you the right to publish these materials on social media, I am sorry but I don’t accept such an Internet.” (Reuters)

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