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Turkey labels YouTube leak a pre-election 'plot'

Turkey's embattled government vowed action Friday over the bugging of a security meeting on Syria which was leaked on YouTube, labelling it a conspiratorial "plot" ahead of key local elections. The leak comes amid a fierce stand-off between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ally-turned-foe, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Erdogan has blamed for the eaves-dropping.

As prosecutors launched a probe into the case, President Abdullah Gul warned "we will do whatever necessary" to find the culprits behind the "act of espionage targeting state security". Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is alleged to be one of the voices on the recording, also warned of "action against those who want to throw Turkey into chaos with political plotting".

The recording purportedly features top government, military and intelligence officials discussing plans to fabricate an attack that would justify a military strike against neighbouring Syria. Ankara did not deny that the meeting on Syria took place but said some content in the audio recording had been manipulated. Foreign ministry rooms were later swept for listening devices. Davutoglu said in a TV interview that the "revelations have only benefited the regime" in Syria.

He added that YouTube was blocked after it refused a government request to take down the recording and said: "This is not freedom of thought. This is a security threat. A state is entitled to take measures." The leak followed an avalanche of recordings that implicated Erdogan and his political and business allies in a vast corruption scandal, and which have gone viral on social media in recent months.

The government, which last week shut down Twitter, ordered a block on YouTube on Thursday in response to the latest release, prompting fresh criticism from foreign capitals and human rights groups. "The right to freedom of opinion and expression is a central pillar of modern democratic societies," said UN human rights monitor Frank La Rue.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014


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