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Turkish ministry launches probe into mayor over foreign aid cut

Turkey’s Ministry of the Interior has ordered an investigation against newly-appointed Bolu mayor following his written order for foreign aid cut targeting mostly Syrian refugees in the city, T24 news portal reported on Friday.

The probe came after Bolu Mayor Tanju Ozcan from the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) instructed the Cultural and Social Affairs Directorate of the municipality to cut financial and in-kind aid to the foreign nationals living in the city.

The written order was Ozcan’s first move after receiving his official mandate to serve as the mayor of northwestern Bolu province after the March 31 local election.

Ozcan said in the order that foreign nationals living in Turkey are supported by the United States World Food Program, the Turkish Red Crescent and the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services under the name of social adaptation aid.

“Therefore, my request from the Cultural and Social Affairs Directorate of our municipality is not to supply financial and in-kind aid to any foreign nationals living in our city,” the mayor added.

Following the mayor’s move, the Ministry of the Interior ordered a probe to be launched against him.

Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs Ismail Catakli informed that some 40 non-governmental organizations filed criminal complaints regarding Ozcan’s order which is described as a racist and separatist move.

“We will do what is necessary as a result of this investigation,” Catakli further stated.

Speaking to T24 on the issue, Ozcan said: “They are free to launch a probe. Our attitude is clear, what we say is clear.  I was elected [as Bolu Mayor] for saying these things. There’s nothing to be investigated in what I said.”

Turkey has been the main route for refugees to cross into Europe since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The country currently harbors four million Syrian refugees.

Bolu municipality, which was run by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), was handed over to main opposition CHP’s Ozcan after the March 31 elections.

The ruling AKP faced serious setbacks in local elections and lost control of many major cities including Turkey’s business center Istanbul and capital Ankara.

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