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Turkey PM rejects corruption claims against son

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday rejected allegations that his son was involved in the vast corruption scandal that has targeted some of his closest allies.

ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday rejected allegations that his son was involved in the vast corruption scandal that has targeted some of his closest allies.

"Recently, there have been smear campaigns by the main opposition against my children," the embattled premier said.

"But let me make this clear: if one of my children was involved in such a thing, I would have immediately disowned them," he said at a ceremony in Istanbul.

Prosecutors were reportedly blocked last month from expanding the corruption probe to include Erdogan's younger son Bilal, 34.

But Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said there had never been an arrest warrant for Bilal, who is on the board of a charitable foundation for students and is believed to also have various business interests.

"I would like to state that there is no arrest warrant or order to detain Bilal Erdogan," he was quoted as saying on Thursday.

"The claims that he left the country or is hiding do not reflect reality," he added.

Several Turkish newspapers earlier this month published photos of Bilal having a meeting with Yasin al-Qadi, a wealthy Saudi businessman once named on a UN list of Al-Qaeda financiers.

Earlier this week Turkish anti-terror police detained two dozen suspects, reportedly including two top Al-Qaeda figures, in a nationwide operation that also targeted an Islamic charity linked to the beleaguered government.

The prime minister says he is battling "a state within a state" and claims that the anti-graft investigation was instigated by political rivals to undermine his government ahead of elections this year.

Dozens of people were detained in December, including top business leaders and the sons of three ministers, who have since resigned.

Erdogan has retaliated by launching a purge of police and prosecutors involved in the probe, which is focused on allegations of bribery in construction projects, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran.

He has accused followers of an exiled Islamic cleric -- once a key supporter of Erdogan's ruling party -- of being behind what he has branded a coup plot.

Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper on Thursday reported that two of the ministers whose sons were detained had accepted over $60 million in bribes.

The political tensions have battered Turkey's financial markets, with the lira and stocks tumbling.

The Turkish currency fell to a new low of 2.2246 to the dollar at Friday's close and 3.0177 to the euro while the Istanbul stock market slid 1.81 percent to 65,635.06.

The turmoil has triggered widespread concern about the state of democracy in Turkey after Erdogan's efforts to tighten the government's grip on the judiciary.

A range of Turkish business groups, unions and rights groups issued a joint statement on Friday warning about the impact of the crisis.

"The corruption claims and parallel state claims that have infested the environment have been threatening societal peace and stability and openly posing a danger against our internal peace," said the statement signed by seven groups.

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