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Mayor resigns from MHP after offering house donation to slain Russian pilot’s family

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A district mayor from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) resigned from the MHP after being subjected to disciplinary action due to his offer to donate a house to the family of the Russian pilot, who was murdered by a Turk when a Russian war plane was downed by Turkey near the Syrian border in November 2015.

Mustafa Gül, the mayor of the southwestern district of Kemer in the province of Antalya, was recently referred to the disciplinary board of his party with a request of dismissal after offering the Russian Consulate in Antalya to donate a house to the Russian pilot’s family. Gül held a press conference to announce his decision and told the media that his party misunderstood his suggestion. Along with Gül, around 70 people who are in the management of the Kemer municipality resigned from the MHP.

As the mayor of Kemer, a highly touristic summer resort, Gül told the media that following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian war jet, as well as recent terrorist attacks in the country, dealt a blow to tourism. In response, Gül said he launched a campaign to promote Kemer in 24 countries and seven Turkish cities.

Gül stated that he came up with the idea of offering a house donation to the late Russian pilot’s family after he heard that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was about to hold a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin after a months-long tension. The mayor emphasized that the decision was taken with nongovernmental organizations and hotel owners, and with his identity as a hotel owner, rather than as a mayor.

Last week, Erdoğan apologized to Putin in a letter over Turkey’s downing of a Russian war plane in late 2015.

A Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkish military aircraft near Turkey’s border with Syria on November 24, 2015. Following the incident, two contradicting official statements came from the two countries. According to Putin, the Su-24 was struck by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s as it was flying over Syrian territory. However, the Turkish government claimed that the Russian plane violated Turkish airspace and it was engaged after being warned.

The pilot of the downed Russian plane was shot dead reportedly as he descended with parachute after surviving the crash. The pilot was later identified as Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov by Russian authorities.

Russia imposed a number of sanctions on Turkey in response to the incident.

Following the incident, Alparslan Çelik, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, had claimed that his group killed the Russian pilot. Çelik was reportedly fighting in the ranks of Turkmen groups in Syria.

In December 2015, Moscow demanded Çelik’s arrest and extradition to Russia. A Turkish court in the western province of Izmir ruled for arrest of Çelik in late March. The Turkish court dropped charges against Çelik on May 10.

Another criminal investigation was later launched against Çelik on charges of “possessing war weapon,” however, he was released pending trial along with six others on Monday with a travel ban to abroad.

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