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$455,000 donated to İstanbul Municipality’s COVID-19 aid campaign seized by gov’t

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A district governor in İstanbul has seized donations to the İstanbul Municipality in the amount of TL 6.2 million ($455,000), collected as part of a financial assistance campaign during the pandemic, Sözcü daily reported on Thursday.

İstanbulites donated a total of TL 6.2 million ($455,000) to the municipality between March 30 and June 18, 2020 as part of a campaign titled “We will succeed together” that was launched by Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.

A day after İmamoğlu kicked the campaign off and tweeted the account numbers of four banks for donations, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu sent a notice regarding “the collection of financial aid” to the governor’s offices of all 81 provinces, the General Directorate of Security and the Gendarmerie General Command.

According to Sözcü, the notice stated that some institutions, foundations and associations had recently been collecting money without permission from the İstanbul Governor’s Office and contrary to the provisions of Law No. 2860 on the Collection of Aid.

The İstanbul Governor’s Office then sent notices to the four banks referenced by İmamoğlu for donations, asking them to freeze the bank accounts, Sözcü said.

Although one of them, a state bank, immediately froze the account opened for the municipality’s campaign, people reportedly were still able to donate via the accounts in the other three banks.

The İstanbul Municipality then started a legal process against the governor’s office for ordering banks to freeze their accounts in an attempt to prevent the municipality from collecting aid for İstanbulites during the pandemic.

Sözcü on Thursday said, citing a statement by the İstanbul Municipality, that Kaan Peker, governor of İstanbul’s Fatih district, informed them in a notice that donations in the amount of TL 6.2 million ($455,000) were seized and transferred to the bank account of the İstanbul Revenue Office on his orders.

The Interior Ministry also initiated an investigation into İmamoğlu for launching a campaign for İstanbulites during the pandemic, but there have been no developments in the probe so far, Sözcü said.

Mayor İmamoğlu has been one of the most frequently targeted figures by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government since the 2019 local elections saw the ruling party defeated in several big cities.

After Erdoğan’s AKP and its predecessors’ 25-year rule in İstanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub, İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) assumed office as İstanbul mayor following a decisive victory in a June 24 re-run election in 2019. The election had to be repeated due to the AKP’s objection to İmamoğlu’s initial victory, who won by an even larger margin in the repeat poll.

İmamoğlu 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 election scheduled for 2023.

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