Opposition leader slams minister for distorting reasons why his passport was not issued

Temel Karamollaoglu, leader of the opposition Islamist Felicity Party (SP), slammed Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu for his explanation about the reason why a passport was not issued for him last year, Gazete Duvar reported on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Karamollaoglu claimed in a televised interview the Turkish authorities denied his application to renew his diplomatic passport in July 2018 during a two-year-long state of emergency rule which was declared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2016 after a failed coup attempt in the country.

The reason for the denial, Karamollaoglu said the reason given for the denial an alleged “terror link”, a case for many people at the time. He argued that as a political party leader, he had been blacklisted by the AKP government. He said he was later granted the passport, following negotiations with the ministry.

Even to date, hundreds of thousands of people who were sacked from their public service jobs or were prosecuted over their alleged links to the Gulen Movement cannot get or renew their passports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime pinned the coup blame on followers of the movement, led by US-based self-exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who still denies any involvement in the putsch.

According to a statement released by the interior ministry on December 12, 2017, the number of passports restricted due to investigations over links to the failed coup was 234,419.

“I do not know who put it [terror-link registry] there [the registry of the ministry] or who removed it. I reveal it a year later, but it is scandalous. The Interior Ministry was behind it. I do not know if it was the minister himself who gave the instructions. Shame on you for connecting a political party leader to terrorism,” Karamollaoglu said during the interview.

However, he did not specify why he or his party had not made the scandal public at the time.

In response to Karamollaoglu, minister Soylu responded on Wednesday that there was no such a terror record for the SP leader in the related institutions of the ministry.

“There should be a terror-related incident [in his records], such as a criminal case, a court case. Karamollaoglu’s approach is not true. There may have been such a case, for example, related to the Sivas [Madimak] Massacre.

[Karamollaoglu’s passport application may have been rejected due to a criminal record regarding the Madimak Massacre],” said Soylu, referring to 1993 incidents in Sivas province where thirty-seven intellectuals, mostly Alevi, and two hotel personnel were murdered by an extremist mob when the Madimak Hotel was set on fire.

Karamollaoglu was the Sivas mayor at the time and was held responsible by many for not taking the required precautions.

To counteract Soylu’s argument, Karamollaoglu blamed the minister for distorting the reason of his passport denial during a weekly press conference at the party headquarters on Wednesday.

“Get off! You [Soylu] did this [entering terror-link register and/or rejecting the passport issuance]. A ministry is not a post of empty rhetoric. I do not tell a lie [the reason for passport rejection was a terror link at the time]. Soylu speculates the reason [by referring to the Madimak Massacre]. That is why [because of speculation] this country is in that situation. That is why you lost the Istanbul vote [on March 31],” the SP leader argued.

Karamollaoglu went on to say all institutions of the Turkish state have been exploited by Erdogan as if they were an AKP tool. He called on the public to see that alleged fact.

The SP leader also criticized the AKP government for putting critical problems the country faces on the back burner for the sake of Istanbul mayoral elections. He vowed Erdogan would lose Turkey while trying to win Istanbul in local elections.

Ekrem Imamoglu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the Istanbul mayoral poll on March 31, beating the AKP candidate by a small margin. The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) ruled a rerun vote in Istanbul at the request of AKP, toppling Imamoglu after a few days of taking office as mayor. The rerun votes will be cast on June 23.

“We, the whole country, are focused again on a new vote [the Istanbul rerun]. Since 2014, we have almost every year faced an election. The country has been seriously worn with successive elections. Turkey should be stripped from the election agenda as soon as possible in a bid to focus on our real problems,” warned Karamollaoglu.

The leader finally touched on the economy. He claimed Ankara took economic estimations made by itself as gospel truth, referring to recent remarks by the finance minister vowing to see one-digit numbers in inflation.

“The governing party has kind of a hallucination attack, seeing a mirage of making progress in economy,” mocked Karamollaoglu.

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