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Turkish journalist under investigation for claim of Kılıçdaroğlu assassination plot

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An investigation has been launched into journalist Merdan Yanardağ, editor-in-chief of the Tele 1 TV station, for claiming on social media that a group has entered Turkey from Georgia with the intention of assassinating opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Birgün daily reported on Friday.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu is also President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s main rival in the presidential race on May 14 as the joint presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, known as the Nation Alliance.

According to Turkish media reports, Yanardağ in the early hours of Friday shared a series of tweets in which he claimed that a group had entered the country from Georgia to assassinate Kılıçdaroğlu.

The journalist added that the assassination was planned by controversial businessman Galip Öztürk, founder of Turkish intercity bus company Metro Turizm and a staunch defender of Erdoğan who fled to Georgia after an appeals court in 2018 upheld his life sentence related to a 1996 murder.

He was arrested in Georgia for “illegal purchase and possession of drugs” in June 2022 and sentenced to eight years in prison by a Georgian court in late February.

“[Pay] attention to today’s rally in Samsun. It is also alleged that the assassination attempt may take place at this rally. Everyone concerned should take the warning seriously,” Yanardağ said.

The journalist also underlined that he received a call from Öztürk’s lawyer who told him the allegations weren’t true and that his client had nothing to do with an alleged assassination plot targeting Kılıçdaroğlu.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Yanardağ for “publicly disseminating false or misleading information” on social media, and he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office to give a statement.

Yanardağ’s claims come as Erdoğan is facing the most challenging election of his two-decade rule as he trails Kılıçdaroğlu in the polls.

The alliance led by Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged to restore democracy, release jailed opposition figures, revive freedom of expression and return to economic orthodoxy if it wins the parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. Their goal is to undo President Erdoğan’s two-decade legacy of highly centralized rule.

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