Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has once again called for the removal of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from duty, saying he must stand trial over charges of abetting terrorism.
Bahçelie's comments concern an investigation launched by the Interior Ministry into the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) staff. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu is accusing dozens of the municipality's personnel of being linked to “terrorist organizations.”
In response to the accusations, İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), previously said that Soylu was not mentally well.
During a speech addressing his lawmakers, Bahçeli said on Jan. 4 that İmamoğlu had the responsibility to inquire who is hired to the municipality posts.
“Will the Mayor not ask who is hired or not? If he did ask, could he not say, 'What are these terrorists doing here?' If he did not ask, he is guilty. If he is aware of it but remained silent due to his fear of the HDP [referring to the Peoples' Democratic Party], he is again guilty. If he is not aware at all, that is more dangerous. He is double guilty,” Bahçeli said.
“As you understand, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor is the person responsible in any case. If the allegations [of municipality staff's connection to terrorism] are documented, if they are proven guilty as charged, I repeat: Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor cannot hold the post even for one second, should not,” Bahçeli said.
He said that the Interior Ministry had the utmost right to look into the allegations and that this had been the case with several HDP municipalities whose mayors were dismissed over alleged terrorism links.
“Then why were HDP mayors -- who committed a crime, abetted in the crimes and provided financial and political support to terror organizations -- dismissed from their posts? If there is a rule of law -- and it does exist for sure -- then everyone in a public post is responsible to give an account for what they did and could not do, when the time comes,” Bahçeli said.
He said that if the Interior Ministry proves the allegations, it would not be “enough for the Metropolitan Mayor to appear before the court,” but that it is “a must for him to be removed from duty.”
İmamoğlu is one of the figures that is targeted frequently by the government ever since his decisive victory in the Istanbul elections in 2019. Infuriated by losing Turkey's largest city to the main opposition, the government has been making İmamoğlu face investigations on bogus charges.
Despite these attempts, İmamoğlu's job approval rate has been increasing while the votes of the ruling alliance is melting, according to various polls.