Erdogan Says Turkish Government Facing Covert Film Threat

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has been ensnared by a series of anonymously leaked audio tapes of purported corruption, said his administration may face a new threat from covertly recorded video recordings.

"In these incidents, there is not just wiretapping, there is also filming," Erdogan said in Ankara yesterday, according to state-run Anatolia news agency. "It's even been stretched to the extreme of filming extramarital affairs, invading a family's privacy and totally ignoring moral values."

Speaking to local reporters after the release of audio tapes that the opposition said placed Erdogan at the center of a bribery scheme, the premier lashed out at the tactics.

"I don't accept the use of the Internet in this way," Erdogan said. Speaking in eastern city of Elazig today, the premier said the Gulen movement, which he blames for the government's troubles, requires young people staying at its hostels to "curse" his name.

The crisis broke in December, when scores of people with links to the government were arrested or detained on charges including gold-smuggling, bribery and bid-rigging -- allegations that have been described as an attempted coup by Erdogan. Since then, the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) has fallen by about 14 percent, while the lira has dropped by about 8 percent.

Last month, audio recordings were posted on the Internet apparently showing Erdogan, who has served 11 years in office and is Turkey's second longest-serving prime minister, discussing the collection of money from a businessman, a defense contract and legal proceedings. The tapes cannot be independently verified. 'Right to Sin'

Metin Kulunk, a lawmaker from Erdogan's ruling party and member of the industry committee, told Haberturk television late yesterday that graft allegations are "interfering with people's right to sin." He also said critics were arrogating God's authority by using "peoples' deficiencies as a political tool in a coup attempt."

Erdogan has repeatedly accused U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen -- a former ally -- and his supporters within the police and judiciary of illegally wiretapping phones and filming members of his party, government and their families in a "coup" attempt against his Islamic-rooted government ahead of local elections on March 30.

His government has already purged thousands of police officers and judicial officials. The jailed graft suspects, including sons of two state ministers and the head of a state bank, were all released last month. 'Undermine Peace'

The prime minister's arguments "undermine social peace and pave the way for violence by sowing the seeds of hatred and animosity," the Journalist and Writers Foundation, whose honorary president is Gulen, said in a statement today.

Amid the dispute with Gulen's followers, Erdogan's government has thrown its backing behind concerns by the military that convictions of its members were based on fabricated evidence. President Abdullah Gul today approved a law to abolish the special courts which convicted about 400 serving and retired officers on coup plot charges over the past two years, in a move which may possibly lead to retrial of the men.

The country's top court today ruled that the rights of a former chief of staff, General Ilker Basbug, had been violated during a trial last year that led to his being sentenced to life imprisonment alongside dozens of other generals, journalists and academics on charges of attempting to oust Erdogan's government. The court asked a lower court to decide whether to release him.