The popular opposition Mayor of Istanbul – a regular target of the Erdogan government – has condemned an Interior Ministry «investigation» into the alleged «terrorist links» of 557 of his municipal employees.

Istanbul Mayor Condemns Probe Into City Officials’ ‘Terrorist’ Links

Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on the waterfront in Istanbul, Turkey, May 11, 2020 Photo: EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on Monday condemned an investigation initiated by the Interior Ministry into claims that dozens of the municipality’s staff are linked to “terrorist organisations”, saying he should resign.

“I invite people to speak carefully about an institution which has more than 86,000 employees. I am not an intelligence agency; I am not the judiciary. The Interior Minister says people [with alleged links to terror groups] … work at Istanbul Municipality. The Minister should resign immediately,” Imamoglu said at his Republican People’s Party’s headquarter in Ankara.

Imamoglu added that he had sought information about these claims 15 day before in a letter but had received no answer from the ministry.

“If you determine anyone [is a terrorist], inform us and we can do what is necessary. The Justice and Interior Ministers can go to the president and explain,” Imamoglu said.

Imamoglu said on Sunday that those attacking his municipality would see only greater unity in Istanbul, adding that the municipality and its workers will seek their rights in the courts.

The Turkish Interior Ministry on Sunday claimed that 557 municipal personnel hired by Imamoglu had suspected links to “terrorist groups,” including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, the Marxist–Leninist Communist Party, MLKP and Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, DHKP/C.

“A special investigation was launched by our ministry so that all aspects of the issue can be looked into,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu insisted that the investigation was not political.

“We have no business with anyone’s municipality, we have a business with the fight against terrorism and for this we have to keep Turkey on the alert,” Soylu said on Monday.

The Ministry also claimed that some people reportedly had links with President Erdogan’s arch-foe, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organisation. The former ally-turned-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The investigation came after President Erdogan also accused Istanbul Mayor of hiring people with terrorist links. “They recruited 45,000 people, among whom are some affiliated with terrorist organisations,” Erdogan said on Sunday in a party meeting.

Mayor Imamoglu is one of the most frequently targeted figures by President Erdogan and his government since the 2019 local elections saw the ruling party defeated in many big cities.

In the elections, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP lost almost all major cities including the capital, Ankara, the largest city in the country, Istanbul and the industrial and tourism centres of Antalya, Mersin and Adana.

In Istanbul, the elections were held for a second time because the government indisted that the ballot was marred by fraud and irregularities.

Imamoglu won the elections for a second time, however, with a clear victory, having 800,000 more votes than his AKP opponent. He has since become one of the most popular opposition politicians in the country. Imamoglu widely seen as the opposition’s likely candidate for the presidency against Erdogan in the next elections.

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