Report: Turkish PM's son testifies in graft probe

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News,Business,Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son has been questioned by prosecutors investigating allegations of bribery and corruption which reportedly involves an educational foundation of which the younger Erdogan is a board member.

Erdogan's son — 33 year-old Bilal Erdogan— gave testimony to prosecutors in Istanbul on Feb. 5 and is determined to clear his name, lawyer Ahmet Ozel said in a written statement to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

In December, the prime minister sacked four government ministers allegedly implicated in a vast corruption scandal after authorities arrested two dozen people, including the sons of two government ministers and a state-owned bank chief, on bribery charges.

The government then moved to replace prosecutors and police involved in the probe. That reportedly stalled a second wave of arrests and the questioning of Erdogan's son, and sparked accusations that the government was trying to suppress graft probes.

Erdogan insists the investigations were orchestrated by followers of a moderate Islamic movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, and are aimed at damaging his government ahead of local elections in March and presidential elections in August. Gulen denies involvement in the probes.

Bilal Erdogan's testimony comes after the government replaced thousands of police officials and prosecutors nationwide who were believed to sympathize with the Gulen movement.

The main opposition People's Republican Party has claimed that the educational foundation, Turgev, accepted bribes — disguised as donations — from businessmen who were granted lucrative public contracts.

Ozel said Bilal Erdogan was the victim of a political "lynching" campaign.

Earlier Friday, a court released from jail Suleyman Aslan, the former head of a state-owned Halkbank, pending trial on corruption charges, Anadolu reported. Seven other people were also released, it said.

Turkish news reports say police seized $4.5 million in cash stashed in shoe boxes from Aslan's home.

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