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Opposition mayors’ phones are being illegally wiretapped, CHP leader claims

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has claimed that phones of mayors from his party are being illegally wiretapped by law enforcement, local media reported on Tuesday.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s allegations came during a meeting with the Ankara representatives of various newspapers on Tuesday, days after the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into employees of the İstanbul Municipality, run by the CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu, over alleged terrorism links.

Referring to the investigation, Kılıçdaroğlu said it was an effort to change the agenda by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who could never accept the CHP’s success in local administrations.

Mayor İmamoğlu, who has been one of the most frequently targeted figures by Erdoğan and his government since the 2019 local elections saw the ruling party defeated in several big cities, initially won in local polls on March 31 by a narrow margin against ruling party candidate Binali Yıldırım, and then scored a much larger victory during a re-run on June 23.

İmamoglu has since become one of the most popular opposition politicians in the country. Many see him as the opposition’s likely candidate for the presidency against Erdoğan in the next elections.

“They [Erdoğan and his government] are attacking us because they can’t accept [our success]. The Interior Ministry appointed inspectors [for the investigation]. It’s too little too late. You should’ve sent them sooner,” the CHP leader said, addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and suggesting that if terrorists could walk free and find jobs in public institutions it would show his failure to take action.

“They are [illegally] wiretapping all our mayors’ phones. They created a private department to look into all the employees hired [by the mayors]. Let them do it. If there are people affiliated with terrorist organizations [within the İstanbul Municipality], the relevant state institution will be warned,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.

The opposition leader also said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may have targeted the İstanbul Municipality because they aimed to win the mayor’s seat in the next elections in order to be able to use the municipality’s resources again, amid the country’s deteriorating economy.

The Interior Ministry on Sunday claimed that 557 municipal personnel hired by İmamoğlu had links to “terrorist groups,” including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, (PKK) the Marxist–Leninist Communist Party, (MLKP) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).

The İstanbul mayor responded by saying those attacking his municipality would see only greater unity in İstanbul, adding that the municipality and its workers will claim their rights in court, while Soylu insisted that the investigation was not political.

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