A main opposition lawmaker has claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ as Turkey’s new justice minister, replacing Abdülhamit Gül, under the influence of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Saturday.
According to a statement published in the Official Gazette on Saturday, Bozdağ, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s Constitutional Committee, was appointed after Gül submitted his resignation early Saturday.
However, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Vice Chairman Muharrem Erkek on Saturday told Cumhuriyet that the replacement of Gül wasn’t a result of his resignation, but rather his dismissal.
Erkek claimed that Gül was forced by Erdoğan to resign because the MHP, an ally of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and Soylu wanted him out.
The appointment of the new justice minister comes less than a day after Gül said during a speech on Jan. 28, Data Privacy Day, that Turkish law should never allow such acts as illegal wiretapping and the disclosure of people’s private images and data.
Gül added that individuals who share private data with state institutions must be assured that they won’t be disclosed by conventional or social media since the right to privacy of data is a basic right.
The former minister’s statements came after footage showing İstanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu arriving at a restaurant in an official car on Jan. 24 was released by pro-government circles that portrayed it as his failure to do his job as mayor since the city was paralyzed by heavy snow that day.
The footage of the mayor was recorded by the MOBESE system, which has a vast network of CCTV cameras spanning cities and towns across Turkey, with the city of İstanbul alone monitored by some 21,000 cameras.
The footage was released by the pro-government media, which, along with members of the AKP, criticized İmamoğlu for taking the time to have dinner with Dominick Chilcott, the UK ambassador to Turkey, while life in İstanbul had ground to a halt, with thousands of people stranded on the roads due to heavy snowfall blanketing the city.
İmamoğlu and other members of the CHP blamed Soylu for the release of the footage.
“It is a great scandal that the footage on the police’s MOBESE cameras was used unlawfully, violating [people’s right to] private life and for the sake of political interests. … While it’s the interior minister who should have been fired, they dismiss the justice minister, who criticized [violation of the right to] protection of private data,” Erkek told Cumhuriyet.
“I guess the AKP government is acting under the influence of Soylu and the MHP,” he added.
İmamoğlu, who ended the years-long rule of the ruling AKP in İstanbul by defeating the party’s candidate in the 2019 local elections, is frequently subjected to criticism by AKP politicians and pro-government media outlets, in addition to becoming the target of judicial harassment. Earlier this month he appeared in court on charges of insulting election officials in 2019.