, ANKARA, July 22- Turkish authorities on Tuesday arrested 55 senior police officers in a criminal probe over alleged corruption and abuse of office, the latest apparent crackdown on opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of presidential polls.
Forty serving and former top police officers were arrested in Istanbul, including the former head of the anti terrorism unit of Istanbul police, Omer Kose, television reports said.
Fifteen others were arrested elsewhere, in what the reports said was a new sweep against the movement of Erdogan’s former ally Fethullah Gulen in the wake of a vast corruption scandal implicating the prime minister and his inner circle.
In the huge operation conducted in the early morning, police in Istanbul alone raided almost 200 addresses. Television pictures showed the senior police officers being led outside in handcuffs.
The Hurriyet daily said on its website that simultaneous raids were conducted in 22 cities across Turkey.
The suspects are accused of espionage, illegal wire tapping, forgery in official documents, violation of privacy, fabricating evidence, and violation of secrecy of investigation, the reports said.
Erdogan has accused supporters of Gulen of holding excessive influence in the country’s police and judiciary and concocting a graft scandal to unseat his government ahead of March local polls.
Erdogan’s Islamic rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) scored a decisive victory in those local polls and the prime minister is now standing in elections for president to be held on August 10.