A demonstrator holds portraits of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest against the ruling AK Party government over a corruption probe, in Ankara yesterday.
ANKARA: Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Turkey's capital Ankara yesterday in protest against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which has been rocked by a vast corruption probe.
The government also signalled it may back down on a contentious bid to curb the judges' powers as fierce scuffles erupted in a parliament commission ahead of a second round of debate over the draft bill.
As Erdogan arrived home after a week-long tour to Asia, about 20,000 protesters gathered at Ankara's major Sihhiye Square, chanting "revolution will clean this filth" and "they are thieves".
Some protesters were also handing out fake dollars with Erdogan's photo on them.
The corruption scandal implicating close allies of Erdogan has rattled his government to its core, and poses the biggest challenge to his 11-year rule.
It erupted on December 17, when several public figures, including high-profile businessmen and the sons of three ministers, were detained over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.
Forced into a major cabinet reshuffle after the three ministers resigned, the prime minister has responded angrily to the probe, calling it a "dirty plot" to discredit his government.
He sacked hundreds of police chiefs in a major purge and has moved to curb the powers of the judiciary.
Erdogan's government, in power since 2002, has accused loyalists of US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose movement wields influence in the police and judiciary, of instigating the corruption probe.
Turkey's justice minister said the government may abandon a reform package which would give it more powers over the appointment of judges and prosecutors.
"If political party groups come together ... and reach a consensus, the proposal could be halted," local media quoted Bekir Bozdag as saying.
The AKP moved to tighten its grip over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, which was slapped down by the top judicial body itself as unconstitutional and sparked criticism from the United States and the European Union.
Scuffles broke out ahead of a second round of debate on the proposals in parliament's justice commission yesterday, with local media reporting that politicians threw punches, water bottles and an iPad.
Opposition parties demand that the AKP abandon the bill but Bozdag earlier said the proposed reforms would not be withdrawn.