Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday claimed a huge graft probe in which the sons of two ministers were charged was an international conspiracy.
The case that erupted on Tuesday and targeted 89 people, including some of Erdogan's closest allies, has triggered a crescendo of reactions from Turkey's strongman.
Rattled by the worst scandal of his 11-year rule and with crucial polls three months away, Erdogan has already purged the police command for cooperating with the investigation and yesterday took it out on foreign ambassadors.
He described the probe into widespread bribery by members of his moderately Islamist regime as "smear campaign" with international ramifications.
"Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions... Do your job," Erdogan said in televised remarks in the Black Sea city of Samsun. "We don't have to keep you in our country."
Erdogan's remarks were considered a veiled threat to US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, after he was reported to have commented on the unfolding bribery scandal.
Observers have interpreted the raids as a result of tensions between Erdogan's government and Fethullah Gulen, a hugely influential Muslim cleric who lives in the United States.
Judges in Istanbul yesterday charged the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan with acting as intermediaries in order to give and take bribes, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
The prime minister, who faced an unprecedented wave of protests six months ago, has responded with a deep purge of the police, a force he once bolstered to counter the army's influence.
He sacked the Istanbul police and dozens of unit chiefs, essentially accusing them of not warning him that some of his closest aides were being investigated.
The graft probe has exposed bitter fault lines in Erdogan's traditional power base and drawn calls for the government's resignation from both his own party and the opposition.