Istanbul mayor condemns investigation into “terrorist” links by city officials

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on the waterfront in Istanbul, Turkey, May 11, 2020 Photo: EPA-EFE / ERDEM SAHIN

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on Monday condemned an investigation by the Interior Ministry into allegations that dozens of municipality employees are linked to “terrorist organizations”, saying he should resign .

“I invite people to speak cautiously about an institution with more than 86,000 employees. I am not an intelligence agency; I am not the judiciary. Home Secretary says people [with alleged links to terror groups] … Work in the municipality of Istanbul. The minister should resign immediately, ”said Imamoglu at the headquarters of his Republican People’s Party in Ankara.

Imamoglu added that he had requested information on these allegations 15 days earlier in a letter but had received no response from the ministry.

“If you determine that someone [is a terrorist], let us know and we can do what is necessary. The justice and interior ministers can go to the president and explain themselves, ”Imamoglu said.

Imamoglu said on Sunday that those who attack his municipality would only see greater unity in Istanbul, adding that the municipality and its workers will assert their rights in court.

The Turkish Interior Ministry claimed on Sunday that 557 municipal workers hired by Imamoglu had alleged links to “terrorist groups”, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, MLKP and the Party / Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of the People, DHKP / C.

“A special investigation has been launched by our ministry so that all aspects of the matter can be examined,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Home Secretary Suleyman Soylu insisted the investigation was not political.

“We have no business with anyone’s municipality, we have business with the fight against terrorism and for that we have to keep Turkey on alert,” Soylu said on Monday.

The ministry also claimed that some people have had ties to President Erdogan’s nemesis, US preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organization. The former ally-turned-enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of organizing a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The investigation came after President Erdogan also accused the mayor of Istanbul of hiring people with links to terrorism. “They recruited 45,000 people, some of them affiliated with terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said at a party meeting on Sunday.

Mayor Imamoglu is one of the figures most frequently targeted by President Erdogan and his government since the 2019 local elections saw the ruling party defeated in many major cities.

In the elections, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, lost almost all major cities, including the capital, Ankara, the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and the industrial and tourist centers of Antalya, Mersin and Adana.

In Istanbul, the elections were held a second time because the government declared that the ballot was marred by fraud and irregularities.

Imamoglu, however, won the elections for the second time with a clear victory, with 800,000 votes more than his AKP opponent. He has since become one of the country’s most popular opposition politicians. Imamoglu widely regarded as the likely opposition candidate for the presidency against Erdogan in the upcoming elections.

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