Turkish gov’t dismisses opposition mayor over graft probe

Battal İlgezdi

The Interior Ministry of Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which is under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has announced on Friday that the mayor of İstanbul’s Ataşehir district from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been dismissed from his post over corruption allegations.

Mayor Battal İlgezdi was removed based on an investigation into him by inspectors, according to the official statement. Following the decision, a group of İlgezdi’s supporters gathered outside the municipal building to protest the decision.

Reacting to the decision, İlgezdi issued a statement denying the charges of destroying critical documents over allegations of corruption. He urged the authorities to hold him accountable, adding that the government has strong control over the media and the judiciary. “The rule of law has collapsed, and this is a political process,” said İlgezdi and pointed out the debates over judicial independence in Turkey.

The CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed suspension of Mayor İlgezdi, saying that the decision was unlawful. Speaking at a press confrerence on Saturday, Kılıçdaroğlu said İlgezdi was acquitted from those alegations before. “This press conference is never a defense. It is for information purposes. We have no account to give. Our mayor went to the prosecutor’s office and applied for himself. He has been acquitted in all investigations,” he said.

Mayor İlgezdi had denied the allegations when they first surfaced in 2015 and asked the prosecutor’s office to “investigate” the claims against him.

Meanwhile, CHP’s Muğla mayor, Osman Gürün said that two inspectors from Interior Ministry would come for investigation to Muğla Municipality. “Two inspectors from the interior ministry will come to our municipality on Dec. 11 for inspection. We have had many audits before,” he said.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been removing local mayors, particularly in the Kurdish-populated southeastern region, especially since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Several elected Kurdish mayors were replaced by government appointees under an ongoing state of emergency.

Even though İlgezdi has been removed due to allegations of corruption, the AKP government and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been under fire for having swept corruption charges against their government under the rug. The government’s decision to target only opposition mayors is considered a double standard by many critics.

İlgezdi’s wife, Gamze İlgezdi, is a deputy from the CHP who is among the few politicians in Turkey raising concerns about infants being victimized in a purge that is being carried out by Erdoğan.

The Turkish government has arrested at least 84 co-mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) as sister party of pro-Kurdish Peoples’s Democratic Party (HDP) while seizing the administration of at least 54 municipalities across southern Turkey.

The pro-Kurdish DBP won 103 municipalities in local elections held on March 30, 2014, with some repeated on June 1, 2014. However, with Turkey stepping up political pressure on Kurdish politicians in recent months, the government has appointed trustees to the management of 54 municipalities and arrested a total of 84 co-mayors and 13 deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The 84 co-mayors were jailed in 15 provinces: Van (9), Hakkari (8), Ağrı (5), Iğdır (2), Erzurum (3), Muş (5), Bitlis (10), Siirt (6), Şırnak (11), Mardin (8), Diyarbakır (8), Elazığ (2), Tunceli (2), Urfa (4) and Mersin (1).

President Erdoğan has also obliged Bursa Municipality Mayor Recep Altepe, Balıkesir Municipality Mayor Uğur, Uşak Municipality Mayor Nurullah Şahan, Niğde Municipality Mayor Faruk Akdoğan, Nevşehir Municipality Mayor Hasan Ünver, Ankara Municipality Mayor Melih Gökçek, İstanbul Municipality Mayot Kadir Topbaş and Düzce Municipality Mayor Mehmet Keleş from the AKP to resign.

Meanwhile, Ankara governor has banned an anti-corruption panel discussion by a communist party member, the day before it started. The panel, “Zarrab Trial, Off-Shore Documents and Corruptions: What Should The Public Do?” scheduled to be held by Turkey’s Communist Party (TKP) executive Özgür Şen at a cultural center in Ankara, was banned over alleged security concerns, Ankara Governor Ercan Topaca said in a statement on Thursday.

In a New-York based trial, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan and three executives of the state-run lender Halkbank, have been recently charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions. (SCF with turkishminute.com & turkeyprobe.com)

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