EU warns Ankara over any plans to remove Istanbul mayor

Any attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime to remove Istanbul’s mayor will have serious consequences, the European Parliament’s (EP) rapporteur on Turkey, Kati Piri, has warned.

“If they remove him, this will have very serious consequences for EU-Turkey relations. Better think twice before acting,” she warned.

Her warning followed comments by Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu that he would on Sunday reveal the fate Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, whom he recently threatened “to ruin”.

In a tweet on Friday, Piri said: “Since local elections, [the] Turkish government started replacing elected mayors. Suleyman Soylu [is] now threatening Istanbul’s Ekrem Imamoglu.”

The left-wing Birgun daily reported on Friday that Soylu said he would talk about Imamoglu’s fate during a televised interview on Sunday.

This came after Soylu was asked on Friday by a reporter whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was going to seize the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) by replacing Imamoglu with an appointed official.

Soylu’s statement came several days after his threat to “ruin” Imamoglu over a solidarity visit in Diyarbakir to the ousted mayors from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who were on August 19 replaced with state-appointed officials for alleged terror activities.

“We dismissed these three, and then the newly elected mayor of Turkey’s biggest city [Istanbul] went running to defend them. … Know your place. … If you don’t do your job and continue busying yourself in other affairs, we will ruin you,” the minister said, addressing Imamoglu on Tuesday.

Soylu was also asked by the same reporter on Friday to explain what he meant by saying he would “ruin” the main opposition mayor.

Soylu replied that he would explain it during a TV program on Sunday morning, in reference to his planned interview with journalist Hakan Celik.

Following Soylu’s comments, Imamoglu told reporters he would not be frightened off by such threats.

Imamoglu also said that he would also make a statement on Sunday to inform the public about the hundreds of cars lined up side by side in Istanbul’s Yenikapi square.

Imamoglu began the transfer of hundreds of vehicles to a square to keep his promise made before the elections to display the redundant cars of the municipality to reveal the extent of the extravagance during the AKP’s rule of Istanbul.

Soylu also commented on the mayor’s display of the cars and said Imamoglu was engaged in “showmanship.” He added that any wasteful spending of the municipality should be investigated and dealt with by the appropriate ministry.

A week earlier, the mayor also drew attention to the lavish expenditure of the previous AKP municipal administration, cutting $60 million of funding to charitable foundations close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family.

Erdogan’s AKP government has removed dozens of HDP mayors since 2014, claiming that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state, had been taking advantage of the municipalities and their mayors for its illegal purposes.

The PKK has been in conflict with the Turkish state since 1984 when it launched a separatist insurrection in the country’s mainly-Kurdish southeast provinces.

Before the local elections on March 31, Erdogan said his government would not hesitate to dismiss any elected officials linked to terrorist organizations from their posts.

Interior minister faces backlash over his threat to ‘ruin’ Istanbul mayor

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