High-profile corruption suspects free for now
Agence France-Presse in Istanbul
A Turkish court yesterday released the last five suspects, including the sons of two ministers, detained in a corruption probe that has struck at the heart of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.
Baris Guler, the son of the former interior minister, as well as Kaan Caglayan, the son of the ex-economy minister, and Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab were among the remaining accused freed pending trial, local media reported.
The private NTV channel said an Istanbul court made the decision because the necessary evidence had been collected. The five were also given a travel ban.
Asked about the releases during a visit to the western city of Balikesir, Erdogan told reporters: "This is what I expected. Justice has been served."
Guler and Caglayan stand accused of acting as intermediaries for giving and taking bribes, while Zarrab was suspected of forming a ring that bribed officials to disguise illegal gold sales to sanctions-hit Iran via state-owned Halkbank.
The men walked free two weeks after Suleyman Arslan, the former chief executive of Halkbank, was also released. He faces allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with illegal gold sales to Iran.
Police also seized US$4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes from his home. In subsequent street protests against government corruption, citizens have waved empty shoe boxes as a symbol of their anger.
The graft scandal first erupted with police raids on December 17, when dozens of Erdogan's key business and political allies were detained. The fallout prompted a cabinet reshuffle and the resignation of three ministers whose sons were among those targeted.