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AKP denies being behind Öcalan letter ahead of İstanbul vote

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Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik has denied claims that his party was behind a letter written by jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan that called on the country’s Kurdish political party to remain neutral in a repeat İstanbul mayoral election.

Several days before the election in İstanbul, academic Ali Kemal Özcan publicly shared a letter from Öcalan, whom he visited on İmralı Island, where Öcalan has been jailed since 1999.

In the letter Öcalan called on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to remain impartial during Sunday’s vote although the HDP had previously announced it would support opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu against the AKP candidate, Binali Yıldırım.

Speaking at a news conference at AKP headquarters in Ankara on Tuesday, Çelik said Özcan had applied to the relevant authorities to visit Öcalan and was given permission and that his party knew nothing about the Öcalan letter, which was made public by the academic.

“There are efforts to show us as the organizer of this letter and as if we hoped to get some benefit from it. However, we were very clear about our stance against the terrorist organization even on the day the letter was made public,” Çelik said.

Many accused the AKP of using Öcalan’s influence on Kurdish voters as they would play a crucial role on the winner in İstanbul.

İmamoğlu won the vote on Sunday, getting around 54 percent of the vote. Some said Öcalan’s letter had the opposite effect on voters because İmamoğlu increased his vote by 9 percent in comparison to the result of the March 31 local election.

İmamoğlu’s first term as mayor lasted only 18 days as the Supreme Election Council annulled the results of the vote over an appeal filed by the AKP claiming irregularities in the election.

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