EU Minister Egemen Bagis has become the first minister to issue a public statement on his involvement as a suspect in the massive corruption probe, strongly refuting the charges and denouncing alleged efforts to "build a parallel state within the state" Hurriyet Daily News reported.
"In recent days, in print and visual media and on the Internet, a series of news stories and comments regarding the ongoing investigation in Istanbul are being made. Accusatory and slanderous assessment are being made about myself," Bagis said in a written statement issued on the evening of Dec. 20.
"Irresponsible reporting being made within this framework is completely based on misleading and speculative information. These scenarios are being deliberately produced and are completely false ... and are part of an outrageous conspiracy," he added.
The sons of three members of the Cabinet - Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar - have been detained as part of the investigation. Bagis's name is also being cited in news reports as being involved in a large bribery scandal, including allegations that he facilitated the issuing of Turkish citizenship and passports for gang members.
"Those who have been instrumental in smear campaigns of organizations, and gangs that have been exerting efforts to build a parallel state within the state, have become evident in terms of both execution without trial and assassination of personality," was the phrase used by Bagis in describing the alleged circles behind the operation targeting the government.
The term "parallel state" is commonly used by critics of the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, many of whom have been employed in the judicial and security bureaucracy.
Bagis said those who are instrumental in these circles are committing a "big crime," adding that he had initiated legal processes against those who "reflect nonsense, and who claim to have found evidence for these denigrations in a way that would lead to a judgment [of me]."