Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Istanbul Municipality have engaged in a fresh row after the Interior Ministry announced that an investigation was launched into claims that dozens of municipality personnel are linked to "terrorist organizations."
The Interior Ministry on Dec. 26 claimed that over 550 municipality personnel are suspected of having links to "terrorist groups," including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (MLKP).
The ministry also claimed that some people were reported to have links with the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP that's believed to be the mastermind of July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
"A special investigation was launched by our ministry in order for all aspects of the issue to be looked into," read the ministry statement.
The ministry statement came after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu's earlier remarks. Soylu said that 33,000 people were employed in the municipality under the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and records of 12,000 of them were looked into. He also claimed that dozens of personnel were linked to "terrorist organizations."
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu slammed Soylu's claims and said that the minister wasn't mentally well.
İmamoğlu, who is from the CHP, is one of the figures targeted frequently by Erdoğan and the AKP ever since his decisive victory in the Istanbul elections. Infuriated by losing Turkey's largest city to the main opposition, the AKP has been making İmamoğlu face investigations on bogus charges.
Despite these attempts, İmamoğlu's job approval rate has been increasing while the AKP's votes melt, according to various polls.
The mayor on Dec. 26 responded to the investigation launched into municipality personnel, saying that the ministry brought all 86,000 employees under suspicion.
"I stand with my 86,000 friends who serve Istanbul. Let's fight those who have committed crimes together. But this should be known that those who attack the municipality will encounter an unexpected unity and power," İmamoğlu tweeted on Dec. 26.
“Hak yemem hakkımı da yedirmem” dedim. Bugün de diyorum ki; “İstanbul’a hizmet eden 86 bin yol arkadaşımın yanındayım, ezdirmem” Suçu olanla sonuna kadar birlikte mücadele edelim. Ama şu bilinsin ki; İBB ailesine saldıranlar karşısında beklenmedik bir birliktelik ve güç görecek.— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) December 26, 2021
The Istanbul Municipality has also released a statement to slam the ministry's claims, saying that authorities should share whatever documents they have with the municipality rather than engaging in political rows.
"If 'terror linked' individuals are able to find jobs at public institutions freely, this is a problem of the Interior Ministry that's responsible for security," the municipality said.
"The Istanbul Municipality and its 86,000 employees will seek their rights at courts," it added.
“Terör bağlantılı” kişiler ortada gezip, kamu kurumlarında iş buluyorsa bu sorun İBB’nin değil, güvenlikten sorumlu İçişleri Bakanlığı’nındır. Devletin en önemli bakanlıkları, siyasi polemik yerine, elindeki bilgi ve belgeleri devletimizin kurumu İBB ile paylaşmalıdır.— İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (@istanbulbld) December 26, 2021
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu addressed Erdoğan on Twitter and asked whether the AKP is planning moves to seize the rulership of Istanbul.
İmamoğlu calls on Soylu to resign
On Dec. 27, İmamoğlu and nine mayors gathered at CHP headquarters and released a statement on Soylu's remarks, as well as the investigation.
İmamoğlu said that the CHP is fine with investigations, but questioned the motive behind the current one. He also said that he on Dec. 15 asked the ministry to reveal who the so-called terror-linked personnel are so that the municipality could do what's necessary.
"The ministry didn't take it seriously," İmamoğlu said, adding that if the ministry had any information, it should have arrested said employees.
"Am I an intelligence organization? Am I the judiciary?" the mayor asked.
"If the minister determined that terrorists are employed by the Istanbul Municipality, he should resign right away. He hasn't carried out his duties then," he added.