In the wake of public backlash, Turkey’s Interior Ministry has refused to allow an investigation into İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on allegations he was disrespectful to the tomb of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror last year, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
İmamoğlu was photographed clasping his hands behind his back during a visit to the tomb.
Municipal spokesperson Murat Ongun as well as the country’s Interior Ministry confirmed reports about the likelihood of an investigation into İmamoğlu last week, saying the ministry tasked an inspector to investigate İmamoğlu’s tomb visit as well as his visits to municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), accused by the Turkish government of having links to a terrorist organization.
İmamoğlu, who attended a ceremony marking the 567th anniversary of the conquest of İstanbul by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, known as Mehmed the Conqueror, last year, allegedly disrespected Mehmed II’s memory because he stood with his hands clasped behind his back while visiting his tomb in the Fatih district of İstanbul.
In a statement on Monday the ministry announced it has not granted permission for a judicial investigation into İmamoğlu.
The ministry’s decision came following a controversial statement from the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, who said last week that İmamoğlu’s clasping his hands behind his back at the tomb was a “criminal act” in his view but that he would not allow an investigation into the mayor.
A preliminary investigation, launched upon a request from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, by the ministry inspector was concluded after İmamoğlu gave a statement to the inspector on May 5. The inspector submitted his report to the ministry on May 7.
İmamoğlu described the accusations as being ridiculous, and many social media users posted photos of the mayor on Twitter with messages describing random things he did as “criminal acts” in order to draw attention to what they called the absurdity of the charges.
The İstanbul mayor, who ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the local elections of 2019, is frequently the target of judicial harassment.
In March, he was ordered by a court to pay a fine of TL 7,080 ($930) for insulting a former governor in the Black Sea province of Ordu. İmamoğlu denied the charges and described the case as politically motivated.
The AKP, which launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens following a failed coup in 2016, is accused of taking the country’s judiciary under its control and giving orders to judges and prosecutors to punish its opponents and critics.