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Opposition mayor under investigation for insulting memory of Ottoman sultan

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Turkey’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the opposition mayor of the western city of İzmir on accusations that he insulted the Ottoman Empire and the memory of its last sultan, Vahdettin, also known as Mehmet VI, Turkish media outlets reported.

İzmir Mayor Tunç Soyer, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is under investigation due to remarks he made on Sept. 9, the 100th anniversary of the liberation of İzmir from occupation.

In his speech Tunç criticized the Ottoman Empire and its rulers 100 years ago, accusing them of ignorance, perversion and even treason. He said they cared nothing about the future of the people but instead put them in danger simply to remain in power and maintain their luxurious lifestyle.

The ministry appointed two inspectors to investigate the mayor, who is accused of fomenting hatred and enmity among the people and insulting the memory of a dead person, both considered a crime under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The inspectors asked the İzmir Municipality to provide them with video footage of the mayor’s speech.

Meanwhile, Tunç who made a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, about the investigation into him, said his remarks were from Nutuk (The Speech) of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey and the CHP.

Nutuk was a speech delivered by Atatürk Oct. 15 to 20, 1927, at the second congress of the CHP in which he covered the events between the start of the Turkish War of Independence on May 19, 1919, and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Tunç said he stands behind his words.

It is common for opposition mayors in Turkey to face such investigations, which many describe as politically motivated.

In December 2022 an İstanbul court banned İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s most internationally recognized rivals, from politics on insult charges in a case stemming from his 2019 victory in İstanbul, which was initially annulled. He can keep serving as mayor while the appeals process winds its way through the courts.

Turkey will hold local elections on March 31.

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