Istanbul Mayor İmamoğlu slams Interior Minister Soylu over 'terror' investigation

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition CHP, has slammed Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu during a press conference over the latter’s accusations of the municipality staff’s alleged connections to terrorism. İmamoğlu said the Constitutional Court ruled to ban security investigation for the personnel to be recruited in public institutions in response to Ministry's claim that no security investigation was requested for the new recruitments of the Municipality.

This collage shows Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu (L) and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu (R)

Duvar English

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu held a press conference on Dec. 28 over the Interior Ministry’s allegations that 1668 personnel who are allegedly linked to “terrorist organizations” are employed in the municipality.

The Ministry announced this week that they filed a criminal complaint against the municipality, claiming that those employees who are linked to “terrorist organizations” were recruited without a security investigation.

İmamoğlu said that the Constitutional Court (AYM) ruled in Nov. 2019, five months after he was elected as the mayor, to ban the request for security investigation for the personnel to be recruited in public institutions.

“This decision was conveyed to the governorship of 81 provinces in an official letter signed by Interior Minister Soylu himself. As the municipality, we have requested an investigation for an officer we recruited in Nov. 2019. The Governor’s Office replied 'You cannot ask for this document,’ based on the AYM’s decision,” İmamoğlu said.

İmamoğlu said they requested the names of personnel who are allegedly linked to “terrorist organizations” from the Ministry when this debate was stirred one year ago but this request was denied.

“In the meantime, they haven't taken any legal action against those they claim to be terrorists,” he added.

The Interior Ministry claimed one year ago that hundreds of 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) and launched an investigation. 

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.

İmamoğlu said the chief inspector for the investigation against the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality was dismissed in summer and replaced with a pro-AKP figure. “A militant AKP member named Arif Yıldırım became the chief inspector of the investigation carried out by the Ministry,” the mayor added.

He further said that no security investigation was requested for 1800 employees when former Mayor Mevlüt Uysal, from the ruling AKP, was in charge.

“Pandora's box opened. After the Minister's delusions the other day, we also established evaluation commissions. We found that those who were found guilty over the charge of 'membership in a terrorist organization' or 'bombing' were employed before us. We also dismissed employees who were IBDA-C members. They were recruited in November and December 2018. If the accusations Soylu made against us have a rationale, the same crime was committed by former Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Mevlüt Uysal and Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya,” İmamoğlu said.

“The brother of your deputy minister (İsmail Çataklı) is a member of the FETÖ terrorist organization and a fugitive abroad. We know that he has not been able to come to Turkey for six years, even during the summer holidays. When Mr. Minister appoints the deputy minister whose brother is a FETO fugitive, are you making a gesture to a terrorist organization affiliate?” İmamoğlu further asked.

The Mayor lastly said that Soylu is a danger for national security and even for the AKP. 

“President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed this person (Soylu). Naturally, Erdoğan is also responsible for the chain of neglect of duty. Mr. President, you will either agree to the chaos of this situation, or you will appoint someone new,” he said.

İmamoğlu is one of the figures targeted frequently by Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ever since his decisive victory in the Istanbul elections in 2019. 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 have melted in Istanbul, according to various polls.