DOZENS of police including high-ranking officers have been detained in Turkey accused of spying and illegal wire-tapping of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his inner circle in what the chief prosecutor said was a concocted probe of an alleged terrorist group.

The former Istanbul anti-terror police chief, himself among those detained and led away in handcuffs, said the incident was entirely political, coming just a few weeks ahead of a presidential election in which Mr Erdogan is standing.

Police conducted raids in 22 provinces across Turkey yesterday and officers involved in a separate government corruption probe which emerged in December and led to the departure of four ministers were among those detained.

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The officers were accused of making up an investigation into an alleged terrorist group as a pretence to tap the phones of Mr Erdogan, ministers and the head of the national intelligence agency.

Istanbul chief prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said: "The order was given for the capture and detention of 76 police officers who were investigating the group named selam-tevhid but whose actual aims were spying."

He said the case, targeting 251 people, had been dismissed due to a lack of evidence after a three-year investigation during which 2,280 people were wire-tapped.