Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu over allegations that he disrespected Mehmed the Conqueror by clasping his hands behind his back during a visit to his tomb last year, AFP reported.
He was attending a ceremony marking the anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul conquest from the Byzantine Empire in 1453.
İmamoğlu is considered to be a potential candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the next elections from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Interior Ministry spokesman İsmail Çataklı said the probe was launched by city prosecutors over allegations that the mayor was “disrespectful to the tomb of Mehmed the Conqueror.”
He did not explain how İmamoğlu may have disrespected the shrine.
After the news of the investigation, Turkish social media users set Twitter ablaze with photos making fun of the probe.
One Twitter user shared the photo of an old woman kissing İmamoğlu in the forehead with the caption “Ekrem İmamoğlu headbutted an old woman.”
Another user shared a photo of him next to a dog and said, “Mayor of İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Ekrem İmamoğlu faces probe for ignoring the sad dog sitting next to him and instead chit chatting on his phone.”
Prosecutors are also investigating separate claims that İmamoğlu “praised criminals” by visiting the co-chairs and some mayors of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
The party denies links to the militants and says it is coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdogan’s 18-year rule.
İmamoğlu, who embarrassed Erdogan’s ruling AKP by winning a controversy-filled İstanbul election in 2019 that had to be re-run because of allegations of fraud, is no stranger to government probes.
He is also being investigated for his opposition to Erdoğan’s flagship project “Kanal İstanbul,” which was designed to create an alternative to the Bosporus Strait, a major world shipping lane.