The government is systematically attacking Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, said the mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, on December 28 in response to a recent terror investigation filed against the mayoralty following the mayor’s conviction on insult charges.
“Attacks against us are carried out within a certain timetable and discipline. These are not ordinary incidents. Whether they are judges or chief inspectors who oppose these processes, these people are also eliminated,” İmamoğlu said at a press conference on December 28.
His statement came after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that a new investigation had been filed against the Istanbul Metropolitan Mayoralty on the suspicion that they had hired “people affiliated with terrorist organizations.”
Soylu has been voicing this allegation since 2021, when he stated that the municipality has hired 557 people who “have relations with terrorist organizations.”
In a recent announcement, Soylu said that the ministry initiated a supervision process, stating that the mayoralty “has hired 1668 terrorists without having a security clearance.”
Security clearance requests were rejected
At the press conference attended by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) vice chairs in İstanbul, Mayor İmamoğlu said that the investigations were “a part of a systematic attack.”
According to İmamoğlu, after taking office in 2019, the municipality requested a security clearance on the people to be hired; however, the request was denied due to a recent Constitutional Court decision.
He added that after the Interior Minister first made the allegations in 2021, the municipality requested detailed information about the personnel accused by Soylu, but they were denied.
According to İmamoğlu, Soylu has linked the accused personnel to eight different terrorist organizations, some of which were classified as “miscellaneous.”
“What are these various terrorist organizations?” İmamoğlu inquired, claiming that this demonstrates the “carelessness” of the investigation.
Judges, investigators are eliminated
Stating that the Interior Ministry’s terror investigation against the mayoralty is “clearly politically motivated,” İmamoğlu said that the officials who refuse to proceed with the “unlawfulness” are “eliminated,” and replaced with people affiliated with the ruling AKP.
“When the inspector came to the mayoralty, there was another head inspector at the helm of the eight inspectors. The delegation made investigations for a time under his chief inspector. However, for any cause —you know what it could be— this inspector was removed from his post and withdrawn to Ankara,” he said.
He added that the new chief inspector Arif Yıldırım is previously a parliamentary candidate from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and had opened 28 investigations against İmamoğlu in 2 years of Mayor’s term.
İmamoğlu also reminded that the chief judge of the case filed against him on insult charges had also been suspended during the trial. The judge revealed to journalists that he was suspended because he rejected a direct order “to convict him and issue a political ban.”
The Istanbul Mayor was sentenced to more than two years in prison last month on insult charges, and prohibited from engaging political activities if the charges are upheld by the appeals courts.
The rising popularity of the mayor, who has taken the İstanbul Mayor seat from the ruling AKP in 2019 elections after 25 years rule of of Erdoğan’s parties, placed him as one of the most powerful contester against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming presidential race.
The CHP’s İstanbul provincial head Canan Kaftancıoğlu, who often is referred as one of the figures behind 2019 victory against AKP, has also been convicted on terror charges and banned from engaging politics.
The charges against prominent opposition figures prompted a long debate on the biased judicial decisions in Türkiye.