Assassination plots occupy the political debate in Turkey

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Successive reports in the Turkish media have alleged plots to assassinate İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, while the country’s most notorious mob boss, Alaattin Çakıcı, remains under government protection despite having explicitly and publicly threatened opposition politicians.

Last year İmamoğlu dealt President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan his biggest electoral defeat as his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the İstanbul Municipality to him after 25 years of uninterrupted conservative rule in the country’s largest city. As a result of his victory, the CHP’s İmamoğlu has become one of Turkey’s foremost political figures.

The OdaTV news website reported on alleged preparations for the assassination of İmamoğlu. The website, which is currently banned in Turkey, is known for its ultranationalist editorial line. According to the report the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was planning to murder İmamoğlu and as a result, the İstanbul police increased his security detail.

After the news broke, İmamoğlu spokesperson Murat Ongun confirmed the planned assassination and the additional security measures.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, however, denied the report. Soylu said there’s nothing unusual about gathering this type of intelligence but that it would be inappropriate to disclose it to the public.

Polls show İmamoğlu as Erdoğan’s most powerful potential rival. AKP spokespeople have accused İmamoğlu of revealing the assassination plot to the public in order to boost his popularity.

Journalist Tolga Şardan, on the other hand, reported that the intelligence was communicated to İmamoğlu’s security detail.

According to Şardan the police officers protecting İmamoğlu were summoned to the İstanbul Police Department on Nov. 23 and were handed an official report acknowledging the intelligence.

The contents of the document clearly show that İmamoğlu was the direct target of the plot and that surveillance of ISIL-held areas in Syria led to information that the network’s leaders ordered militants and other ISIL-affiliated individuals to carry out the assassination.

Threats of assassination of Kılıçdaroğlu

In the pro-Erdoğan media, the assassination allegations more frequently involve CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu. First, the Hürriyet newspaper’s Fuat Bol and then Fuat Uğur from the Türkiye newspaper wrote that Kılıçdaroğlu could be assassinated.

Prior to these columns, Kılıçdaroğlu was threatened by mob boss Çakıcı, who in early 2020 was released from prison after spending 20 years behind bars as part of an amnesty promoted by Erdoğan and his ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

In a letter he published on social media, Çakıcı directed harsh insults at Kılıçdaroğlu and threatened to kill him. After Kılıçdaroğlu filed criminal complaints against the threat, the mob boss wrote a second letter in which he invited Kılıçdaroğlu to dare to kill him.

No concrete legal action has been taken against Çakıcı. However, a citizen named Hakim Ekelik who on his Facebook page responded to Çakıcı’s threats with similar language, has been arrested on charges of “provoking hatred and enmity among the public.” Erdoğan ally Bahçeli defended Çakıcı after his threatening letter, hailing him as a nationalist and a patriot. Bahçeli and Çakıcı are known to be close friends, and Bahçeli had visited Çakıcı in prison, where he was serving a sentence on a number of charges, including the murder of his own wife.

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