Erdogan takes revenge on opposition over its refusal to ‘collude’

Sarigul: This is a panic-stricken manipulation

ISTANBUL - Turkish authorities have seized the assets of the main opposition candidate for the post of Istanbul mayor in the run-up to local polls in March, media reports said Saturday.
Turkey's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund announced the decision Friday after Mustafa Sarigul and nine other people failed to repay a loan worth $3.5 million (2.6 million euros) dating back to 1998, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Sarigul, the Republican People's Party's candidate for Istanbul mayor -- the biggest prize in the March 30 elections -- described the move as a provocation.
"This incident is nothing more than the panic-stricken manipulation of state institutions for politics," he was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.
The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embarked on a major purge of its rivals, particularly in the police, in the wake of a damaging corruption probe targeting some of his key allies.
Sarigul is seen as the main challenger to Istanbul's incumbent mayor Kadir Topbas, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who is running for a third term at the helm of Turkey's largest city.
The local polls, to be followed by a presidential ballot in August and parliamentary elections in 2015, will be a key test for the government, which has been badly bruised by the corruption scandal.
Erdogan has accused followers of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen of instigating the probe to undermine his government ahead of the polls.
Hundreds of police and prosecutors have been dismissed from their posts or reassigned in what critics say is a government attempt to derail the investigation.
The AKP is also seeking to exert more control over the country's top judicial body, a move that has raised concerns among Turkey's allies including the European Union about the state of democracy.
In a new move on Friday, three high-ranking officials with top banking watchdog the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) were also removed from their posts.
Hurriyet said their dismissals came after the release of leaked tapes allegedly belonging to Gulen, a one-time staunch supporter of the AKP who has become Erdogan's arch-nemesis.
"We have men at BDDK," Hurriyet quoted one voice on the tape as saying.