3 AKP politicians who studied abroad on scholarships from İstanbul Municipality face complaints

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The İstanbul Municipality has filed criminal complaints against three politicians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who went overseas on scholarships from the municipality while it was run by the AKP, the Sözcü daily reported on Wednesday.

The three AKP politicians in question are İstanbul women’s branch president Rabia İlhan Kalender and lawmakers Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya and Ravza Kavakçı Kan.

A report drafted by a municipal commission has found that the three women were hired by the municipality in the 2000s and went abroad to study after working for a short period at the municipality or not working at all. The report said a municipal guideline on scholarships was violated and that the municipality suffered a financial loss. The municipality paid around 130,000 euros for Kalender and $70,000 for Kaya, who is also a former minister, and more than $160,000 to Kan.

Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party ended the years-long rule of the AKP in İstanbul by twice defeating the party’s candidate for mayor in the 2019 local elections and has been revealing documents detailing illegal spending and irregularities in the municipality during the AKP’s time running the city.

The municipality filed the complaints against the three politicians at the Bakırköy Courthouse in İstanbul and demanded that they pay back the scholarships they were given.

The Cumhuriyet daily was the first to bring the case of Kan to public attention in 2019, reporting that on the day she was recruited by the İstanbul Municipality in 2008, she went to the US to work on a Ph.D. on a scholarship from the municipality.

According to the report, Kan was recruited as a human resources specialist at Metro A.Ş., a subsidiary of the municipality, on Dec. 16, 2008. On the day, she was employed, Kan travelled to the US to study for a Ph.D. in political science on a scholarship from the municipality.

İstanbul Mayor İmamoğlu said he finds it difficult to understand why Metro A.Ş., which works on transportation, provided a five-year scholarship to one of its employees so that she could get a Ph.D. in political science in the US.

İmamoğlu also said Kan did not perform the compulsory work at the municipality, required for four years, 11 months in return for using the municipality’s resources.

Kan returned from the US in September 2013 and was elected to parliament in 2015 and 2018. During her five years of doctoral work in the US, Kan was paid a monthly stipend of one-and-a-half times the minimum wage in Turkey.

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