Turkish opposition’s İmamoğlu to file legal complaint over efforts to link him to Gülenists

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, said on Thursday that he would file a legal complaint against reported attempts to link him to the outlawed Gülen religious movement, Diken news site reported.

Erkan Karaarslan, who in prison charged with links to the Gülen group, said on Wednesday during a hearing in the western province of Aydın that he had been offered his release in exchange for testimony against İmamoğlu and other CHP officials.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government blames the Gülen movement for the failed coup attempt in July 2016, and thousands suspected of links to the movement have been arrested or dismissed from public office since then.

In his court testimony, Karaaslan said a journalist named Serkan Seyhan had visited him to make the offer, promising him immediate release. “Some ministers, whose names I do not want to be mentioned in court records, have reached me and my family asking me to testify against some mayors,” Karaaslan said. 

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said during a television programme on FOX TV on Thursday that a Turkish minister had sent the journalist to prison to meet Karaaslan and make the offer. 

İmamoğlu on Thursday said that the reports indicated an obvious plot against him, which harmed the Turkish people’s confidence to the government. 

“It is a saddening incident that shows what is being done to create obstacles for someone who is going to be a mayor or running for office. Of course, we are going to file a legal complaint,” İmamoğlu said. “Both the Minister of Justice and the power that is ruling Turkey should answer on this issue. Of course, it disturbed us. This is an effort made in despair to create excuses, defame people, and accuse people through legal processes.” he said. 

İmamoğlu was elected as the new mayor of Istanbul in the March 31 local elections, signaling the end of the 25-year rule of the AKP and its predecessors in Turkey’s financial powerhouse.

The ruling party challenged the results of the elections in Istanbul, citing serious irregularities. Turkey’s Supreme Election Council last week annulled the Istanbul vote and scheduled a rerun on June 23.