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[UPDATE] 5 police chiefs among 8 detained over probe into mob boss with alleged ties to former minister

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Four senior and one junior police chief are among eight people detained in Ankara on Tuesday and Wednesday in connection with an investigation into organized crime boss Ayhan Bora Kaplan, whose network allegedly had ties to former interior minister Süleyman Soylu and other high-ranking officials.

The detentions followed accusations by Serdar Sertçelik, a secret witness in the case who had fled abroad and made bombshell allegations about the Ankara police.

Sertçelik claimed that he was pressured to implicate several key figures in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including ministers and close associates of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Sertçelik alleged that Ankara police officers coerced him into making false statements as part of a plot to discredit the AKP.

The detained officers include Ankara Deputy Police Chief Murat Çelik and the organized crime branch chief and his deputy. Prosecutors charged them with crimes against the constitutional order, conspiracy and attempting to influence judicial proceedings.

After the initial detention of four senior police chiefs on Tuesday, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office announced four more detentions on Wednesday, stating that three civilians and one police sergeant were taken into custody in connection with the escape of Sertçelik.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya confirmed the detentions, saying the investigation would proceed with full transparency. The inquiry aims to uncover any unlawful actions taken by the law enforcement officials, Yerlikaya said, adding that the officers’ homes were searched and pieces of digital evidence were seized.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan replaced Soylu with Yerlikaya in the new cabinet he announced in June following his re-election in the presidential election in May.

The Kaplan investigation has revealed deep fractures within Turkey’s law enforcement and political establishments, highlighting ongoing power struggles between the AKP and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Kaplan, arrested in September while attempting to flee Turkey, is accused of running a criminal organization involved in “intentional injury,” “armed robbery,” “deprivation of liberty” and “torture.”

There were allegations linking Kaplan’s network to Soylu, suggesting that Kaplan received protection from law enforcement in exchange for financial favors. Soylu, who received explicit support from MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, has denied the allegations.

The scandal has intensified with claims that the Ankara Police Department’s organized crime unit deliberately derailed the case against Kaplan for a bribe, allegedly enabling the crime boss and his associates to evade justice. This revelation has led to the suspension of several officers and a broader investigation into corruption within the police force.

Following Sertçelik’s accusations, three high-ranking officers were suspended.

President Erdoğan, addressing his party’s parliamentary group, condemned the alleged attempt to revive bureaucratic conspiracies against his administration.

“We will not allow the resurgence of bureaucratic tutelage,” Erdoğan said.

Will Erdoğan face his own Prigozhin moment?

The detentions of four senior police officials in Ankara in connection with the Kaplan investigation have drawn comparisons to the upheaval caused by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion against the Russian military leadership. Prigozhin, a once-close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who turned against the Kremlin with his Wagner Group forces in June, ultimately met a grim fate when his plane crashed under suspicious circumstances.

The current turmoil in Turkey exposes potential fractures within President Erdoğan’s administration. The detained officers are accused of conspiring to undermine Erdoğan’s government, echoing the dramatic fallout from Prigozhin’s short-lived insurrection.

Erdoğan now faces a critical juncture with his internal security apparatus under scrutiny. The unfolding Kaplan case reveals deep-seated corruption and power struggles that could weaken Erdoğan’s grip on power, much like Prigozhin’s rebellion highlighted vulnerabilities within the Russian state. As Erdoğan navigates these treacherous waters, the potential for high-stakes political drama looms, reminiscent of the turbulence that rocked the Kremlin.

As the investigation unfolds, it remains unclear how it will affect the alliance between the AKP and MHP. Analysts suggest that the fallout from the Kaplan case could have significant implications for Turkey’s political landscape, particularly with Erdoğan navigating pressures ahead of potential constitutional reforms.

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