Erdoğan backs minister targeted by mafia leader Peker

President Erdoğan has backed Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who is currently at the center of controversy due to mafia leader Sedat Peker's accusations, saying that the government stands with the minister in his fight against criminal gangs.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended his embattled Interior Minister on May 26 against accusations of corruption from a mob boss, saying the allegations were an attack against Turkey.

A series of videos by convicted gang leader Sedat Peker has amassed tens of millions of views on YouTube. In them, he makes uncorroborated allegations regarding suspicious deaths, rape and drug dealing, and alleges links to officials close to Erdoğan.

Interior Minister  Süleyman Soylu has denied Peker's accusations directed at him. But the videos have prompted harsh criticism from opposition parties, threatening Erdoğan's government and playing a role in pushing the lira currency to near a record low.

In his first public address of the issue, Erdoğan said the allegations - some over events from decades ago - were part of a chain of attacks against the country.

"We stand with our Interior Minister in his battle with criminal gangs, as well as terrorist organizations," Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a parliamentary group meeting. 

Turkey would bring criminals to justice, wherever they were, he added.

Erdoğan's comments come after the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and its ally, the Good (İYİ) Party, redoubled calls for an early election and for Soylu's resignation over the videos.

Erdoğan said a general election would be held as scheduled in 2023.

Soylu has filed a criminal complaint against Peker and called for him to be charged with slander.

He also asked for his claims to be investigated and denied the accusations against himself in a three-hour televised interview on May 24. Critics say he has not properly addressed the allegations.

The lira slid 1% against the dollar on May 25 to near an all-time low, as bankers said worries about an early election grew. Against the euro, it logged a new low on May 25, before stabilizing on May 26.

Peker, 49, has served several jail sentences in Turkey and said he was now in Dubai. He has referred to Soylu as his "return ticket" to Turkey and called on him to resign "if you have a drop of dignity." 

On May 26, Erdoğan said the judiciary would investigate all allegations.

"No claim ... from the past will be left in the open, everything will be investigated by the judiciary, all the lies and accusations will be cleared," he said. "Nobody should doubt that Turkey is a democratic state of law."

Shortly after Erdoğan's speech, Soylu thanked him on Twitter. 

"We have always been under Erdoğan's command and we will continue to be so," Soylu said on May 26.