The Turkish Interior Ministry has sent to a prosecutor a report on the alleged links to terrorist organizations of staff at the opposition-run İstanbul Municipality, a journalist has announced.
In late December 2021, the ministry began an investigation of 455 people working at the municipality and related companies accused of connections to Kurdish militants, along with more than 100 allegedly linked to leftist and other groups.
Journalist Tuncay Mollaveisoğlu on Wednesday said during a program on the Tele1 station that the ministry had completed its probe and delivered a 578-page report to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed by both İstanbul Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun and the prosecutor’s office shortly afterward.
On Dec. 14, an İstanbul court sentenced İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a key opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to two years, seven months in prison and barred him from politics for allegedly insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK).
The sentence and the political ban must be upheld by an appeals court after a petition is filed.
Considering that the verdict could see İmamoğlu ousted from office and prevented from running in the 2023 presidential election, opposition parties argue that the mayor’s prosecution and trial were an attempt to eliminate a key opponent of Erdoğan, under whose increasingly authoritarian rule they question the independence of the judiciary.
Mollaveisoğlu argued that the ministry’s move to speed up the process and complete the probe at a time like this was also aimed at preventing the mayor from running in next year’s election.
‘Fabricated terrorism investigation’
Meanwhile, İmamoğlu and Canan Kaftancıoğlu, head of the CHP’s İstanbul branch, made a joint press statement early on Thursday and talked about the terrorism investigation into the staff at the municipality.
“As of yesterday, [a report on] a fabricated terrorism investigation has been sent to the prosecutor’s office,” İmamoğlu said, adding that it was “arrogant” as well as “ignorant” of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu to make such moves against him.
Earlier this week Soylu applauded the İmamoğlu’s conviction on insult charges, saying he will suspend the mayor if a higher court upholds the verdict.
“It is futile for him to carry out such thing [as a terror probe], the arrow has left the bow. There will be a change in this country. The time is now,” İmamoğlu said.
Kaftancıoğlu also said the terror investigation showed them once again that there was no limit to what the government can do and that their evil wasn’t ending.
Earlier this year, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals revoked the party membership of Kaftancıoğlu in line with a political ban imposed on her after she was convicted on three counts including insulting President Erdoğan and other public officials.
The İstanbul mayor was tried for publicly stating that the people who annulled the initial 2019 local election, when he won against the candidate of the ruling party, were “fools.” However, İmamoğlu said at his first hearing in January that his remarks, which were in response to a question from a reporter, were not aimed at YSK officials but at Minister Soylu, who in an earlier statement used the same word against him.
İmamoğlu won by a larger margin in a repeat election the same year when the first poll was annulled due to alleged irregularities. Kaftancıoğlu, a doctor by profession, played a key role in İmamoğlu’s victory.