Istanbul municipality targeted by Interior Ministry for questionable terrorism chargesGlobal Voices


Screenshot of a press release from eleven CHP mayors on December 27, 2021.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry opened a criminal investigation on December 26 against the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) – the latest feud between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition party , the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The ministry claims to have discovered links between some employees of the municipality and terrorist organizations.

On December 30, a Turkish court accepted the indictment. The trial will begin on February 18, 2022. If found guilty, the defendants face between 3.5 and 15 years in prison. Although Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the decision was not political and rather a security issue, Istanbul Mayor, representing the CHP, Ekrem İmamoğlu, criticized the motives and expressed support public to all 80,000+ employees employed within the municipality.

The Interior Ministry shared a Tweeter claiming to have identified more than 500 municipality employees and related companies with links to Kurdish activists, leftists and other controversial groups.

Some observers, including CPH chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, suspect the most recent investigation is an attempt orchestrated by the ruling Justice and Development Party to replace İmamoğlu with a government-appointed administrator ahead of the next general election. from 2023.

“Government appointed directors (kayyum in Turkish) are people appointed by the government to manage institutions, usually publicly traded business entities, where corruption and abuse take place, until a new leadership takes place. either in place, ”explains journalist Fehim Tastekin.

In the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup attempt, the trusteeship system expanded to include municipalities and other institutions, Tastekin added. Previously, when the ruling AKP replaced elected Kurdish mayors (members of the Kurdish-oriented People’s Democratic Party, HDP), it also claimed that the decision was not political but a matter of law. In addition, the government has tried and charged tens of thousands of people with terrorism since the failed 2016 coup attempt, including many HDP mayors.

İmamoğlu is also seen as a potential candidate in the next general election and could pose a serious threat to the candidacy of current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğon.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has said İmamoğlu must be removed from his post if investigations find him guilty. The MHP is in the coalition government with the AKP in power. “If the allegations are true, then the mayor has betrayed Istanbul. This betrayal cannot go unpunished, ”Bahçeli said in an interview following the announcement of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB), in a series of tweets on December 26, said it supports all of its employees and will seek justice under the law. The municipality also said it was the responsibility of the Interior Ministry to identify individuals with links to terrorist organizations, not the municipality:

IBB and its 86,000 employees will seek justice before the law until the end.

If affiliated with “terrorists” are free to roam and find work in public institutions, it is not the problem of BWI but the problem of the Ministry of the Interior in charge of security. The most important ministries of the state should share the information and documents they have with IBB instead of engaging in political polemics.

This is not the first time that the mayor of Istanbul has found himself in the sights of the ruling party.

In the 2019 municipal elections, the AKP lost control of major cities, including the capital Ankara and the municipality of Istanbul, where the AKP had held power for 25 years. When the election results were announced in Istanbul, the ruling party called repeatedly, insisting there had been fraud and irregularities. İmamoğlu won the reruns with 800,000 additional votes.

Shortly after the elections, İmamoğlu was accused of insulting members of the Supreme Electoral Council, saying that “the decision affected Turkey’s international position, calling the decision stupid”. In May 2020, the prosecutors’ indictment called for a 4-year sentence against İmamoğlu on the basis of this charge.

In April 2020, when Turkey experienced its first cases of the coronavirus, the ruling party accused the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara of illegal activities after the two municipalities announced COVID-19 relief fundraising campaigns. .

İmamoğlu’s campaign to distribute free masks was also banned. According to journalist Amberin Zaman, “Erdoğan accused the CHP of behaving like banned organizations for terrorism for discrediting his government’s response to the pandemic in order to stir up unrest. The crisis demands national solidarity, he said. Last year, amid protests taking place at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University, President Erdoğan accused the CHP of “serving terrorism” and “provoking the youth”.

Speaking at a press conference with reporters on December 27, 2021, Istanbul’s mayor again condemned the recent investigation accusing the government in power of distracting from the ongoing economic crisis.


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