A Turkish MP from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party quit today in protest at his handling of a major corruption probe, the ninth such departure since the scandal broke in December.
Lawmaker Islhan Isbilen is close to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher living in the United States whose Hizmet network Erdogan has blamed for orchestrating the investigation.
"I have reached the point where even my closest friends are asking me how I can stay in this party with all these violent attacks on the Hizmet movement and Fethullah Gulen," Isbilen told reporters.
"Right now I can see no reason for me to remain within the AKP," he said, referring to Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, which rose to power with the help of Hizmet.
Despite the departure of Isbilen and the others, the AKP still holds a comfortable majority in parliament with 318 of the 550 seats in the chamber.
More than 50 people including the sons of cabinet ministers and business leaders were rounded up in December as part of the probe into alleged money laundering linked to Iran, gold smuggling and bribery in real estate projects.
Erdogan, saying the Hizmet movement forms a "parallel state" within the Turkish establishment, has responded by sacking or reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors, sparking unease abroad.