Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26 claimed that the main opposition-run Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) hired 1668 personnel that are linked to "terrorist organizations."
“The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality did not request any security investigations against the 15,125 employees they recruited for the first time, nor did they form an evaluation commission,” Soylu said during a press conference, adding that the investigation against the municipality is still ongoing.
Soylu claimed that 875 of these employees were linked to the Gülen network, whereas 432 of them were linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
In response, the İBB on Nov. 26 said in a statement that “terrorists do not and can not work in the Municipality. The Municipality said they carry out recruitment in compliance with all relevant legislation provisions. The statement also said they fired 64 employees as soon as they found a terrorism-related investigation or crime in their report that they requested.
Basın Açıklaması. pic.twitter.com/alwlPX9nAm— İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (@istanbulbld) November 26, 2022
Moreover, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on Nov. 26 stated that “Soylu (previously) said, 'We have identified 700 terrorists'. Investigations were launched, 41 people were tried, all were acquitted. A minister who said there are 700 terrorists found zero results. He is a proven liar. He said there are 557 terrorists and put 86,000 İBB employees under suspicion. It has been over a year. There is nothing.”
“This is a person who poses a security threat to the country,” İmamoğlu further said while answering the questions of the reporters.
This is the second time Minister Soylu engages in a similar controversy against the İBB.
The Interior Ministry on Dec. 26 announced that an investigation was launched by the Turkish government into İBB and Ekrem İmamoğlu for alleged links to terrorism. They 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.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, at the time, slammed Soylu's claims and said that the minister wasn't mentally well.
"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.
İmamoğlu is one of the figures targeted frequently by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (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.