In its strongest comments yet on the widening corruption scandal engulfing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, EU on Wednesday called for Turkish authorities to ensure they acted impartially.

The turmoil has rocked Erdogan's government to its very core just weeks before crucial local elections in March.

In the latest development, 16 police chiefs in several major cities including Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Diyarbakir as well as the deputy head of national security, were fired under a decree signed by Interior Minister Efkan Ala.

The latest purge came just a day after the government fired 350 police officers in Ankara, bringing the total number sacked to over 700 since mid-December when the graft scandal broke, according to media reports.

Sources said on Tuesday that another 25 people had been detained on suspicion of bribery and fraud in the widening corruption probe that has targeted several key Erdogan allies.

One of the main prosecutors in the probe, Zekeriya Oz, who initially led the case but has been reassigned, said he met two legal officials sent by the Prime Minister who urged him to end the corruption probe.

"They told me that the Prime Minister is very angry at me. They asked me to halt the probe and to write a letter to apologize to the Prime Minister," Oz said about the meeting in a hotel in the western province of Bursa.

"If allegations (of wrongdoing) are proven, I will resign. But if they are proven to be baseless, I expect this honourable act from those who make these accusations against me," Oz further said in a statement.

Erdogan, currently in Japan on an official visit, denied Oz's allegation.

"The statements made by Zekeriya Oz are lies and slander. It is out of the question that I sent him members of the high judiciary," Erdogan said in a written statement.

EU, which Turkey has long aspired to join, said the crisis was a ‘cause of concern’.


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