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Turkey charges 20 police in wiretapping probe

Turkish prosecutors have charged scores of police officers with illegally eavesdropping on top officials including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, media said.

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors have charged scores of police officers with illegally eavesdropping on top officials including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, media said on Saturday (July 26).

At least 20 former police officers have been indicted since Friday (July 25) and remanded in custody pending a possible trial, the private Dogan news agency reported. As well as illicit wiretapping, they were charged with forging official documents.

Former Istanbul police intelligence chief Ali Fuat Yilmazer was separately charged with "forming and running a criminal gang" among other offences, it added.

Over 100 serving and former police officers were detained last week in dramatic raids as part of the wiretapping probe. Some 30 officers have so far been released to the satisfaction of their supporters, who insist the investigation was politically motivated, coming as it did just ahead of an August 10 presidential election in which Erdogan is standing.

The officers are accused of fabricating an investigation as cover for wiretaps on prominent figures since 2010, including Erdogan, journalists, cabinet members and the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Hakan Fidan.

Prosecutors have said that 2,280 people in total were illegally wiretapped over three years. Many of the police officers arrested had been sacked by Erdogan's government in a spectacular purge earlier this year.

The investigation is the latest episode in the feud between Erdogan and a former ally, a US-exiled cleric named Fethullah Gulen, whom the premier accuses of using his influence over the police and judiciary to damage the government with corruption allegations. Many of the allegations stemmed from leaked phone conversations involving Erdogan and other top officials posted on social media.

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.

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