Faced with ever-damaging accusations against him, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to shut down Facebook and YouTube "if necessary" via a controversial new law, while suggesting "he would not sacrifice the Turkish people" to the two websites Hurriyet Daily News reported.
"Some known circles immediately rebelled against this Internet law. We have done everything that we could do up to now, but there are some other steps that we can take after the [local elections on] March 30. We are determined, we won't let the Turkish people be sacrificed to YouTube and Facebook," Erdogan said during a live interview on private broadcaster ATV late March 6.
"Whatever step is necessary, we will take it in the most precise way, including shutting down [both websites] because those people incite any kind of immorality or espionage for the profit of these institutions. There is no such mentality of freedom," Erdogan said.
He also said he had ceased speaking with cryptic phones after the publication of dozens of phone conversations over the Internet. Although he effectively confirmed the authenticity of some of the recordings, Erdogan insisted that tapes leaked on Feb. 24 featuring a conversation with his son about hiding large sums of cash amid graft raids were a "montage."
"I speak now with normal phones. I say to them: 'Listen if you want to.' This wiretapping can bring people to the scaffold, there is such montage," he said.
Erdogan accuses U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen over the leaks and the massive graft probe that has engulfed his government since mid-December.
Obama 'got the message' on Gulen
Erdogan also said during the interview that he conveyed to U.S. President Barack Obama his complaints regarding Gulen.
"I said the person who is responsible for the unrest in Turkey lives in your country, in Pennsylvania. I said this clearly. 'I expect what's necessary,' I said. You have to take the necessary stance if some threaten my country's security," Erdogan said.
"He looked at it positively. 'We got the message,' he said," Erdogan added.
The Turkish prime minister also said a Red Notice from Interpol may be sought for Gulen.
"Why not? You have to prepare the basis in the first place. And then prepare a thorough bulletin if you do," he said.
Following graft probes that began Dec. 17, 2013, implicating the government in massive levels of corruption, the government launched a massive struggle to purge Gulen's sympathizers from the civil service.