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Erdoğan might dismiss interior minister over alleged mafia links, columnist hints

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu AFP

A columnist has implied that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might soon remove Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu from office because of recent allegations by a crime boss who has mainly been targeting Soylu among other officials with bombshell allegations, local media reported on Friday.

Tolga Şardan, a columnist for the T24 news website, on Friday said, based on sources from the Interior Ministry, that Soylu wasn’t present during a recent presidency event because he was informed that his name wasn’t on the guest list.

“Although Erdoğan makes statements supporting Soylu, especially during [the ruling Justice and Development Party] group meetings in parliament, it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to be seen with him,” Şardan said, adding that he also heard about debates in AKP circles because of the latest allegations revealing state-mafia relations.

“You guys can understand the rest. The bell is tolling for Soylu and his team,” the columnist added.

Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups and once a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, has since early May been making shocking revelations in Dubai, where he fled, about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members.

Soylu has so far been Peker’s main target, primarily because he ordered a police raid on the gangster’s house in April when his wife and three children were home alone and because he called Peker “a dirty mafia leader” in a tweet.

The mafia leader has claimed that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2012 at the invitation of Erdoğan. He also claimed that Soylu helped him avoid police prosecution by notifying him that an investigation was being prepared against him, before he fled Turkey in early 2020. The mob boss further said Soylu previously told people that he and Erdoğan “liked” Peker.

In early June, the crime boss also alleged that it was Soylu who helped Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz flee abroad in December 2020. Involved in a money-laundering scheme in the United States and accused of involvement in large-scale corruption in Turkey, Korkmaz was arrested in Austria on a US warrant last week.

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