Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu investigated on charges of disrespecting Ottoman sultan

Turkish prosecutors began a probe into Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu for disrespecting the mausoleum of an Ottoman sultan, the Interior Ministry said.

The investigation comes in addition to a probe into visits by İmamoğlu to mayors of the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) during which he is suspected of praising crime and criminals, ministry spokesman Mahir Çataklı said in a video statement published on Facebook.

İmamoğlu won the mayoral seat for Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, at local elections in 2019, ending more than two decades of governance by Islamist-leaning politicians of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a predecessor. İmamoğlu is seen by analysts as a possible challenger to Erdoğan at presidential elections in 2023. He has faced other investigations against him.

İmamoğlu is accused of allegedly showing disrespect to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror by walking around the mausoleum with his hands behind his back, said Barış Pehlivan, a columnist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper. He cited a letter sent by an Interior Ministry inspector to İmamoğlu last week requesting him to defend his actions.

The mayor, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), visited the mausoleum in May last year during a service for the anniversary of Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Istanbul, Pehlivan said.

“Our mayor was asked to provide a statement for the preparations of a new investigation that lacks any intelligence, and is focused on assuming intent,” Murat Ongun, a spokesman for İmamoğlu, said on Twitter.

A video of the incident, published on Twitter by the Sözcü newspaper, shows İmamoğlu walking in a courtyard outside of mausoleums for the sultan and his wife. The footage did not show him entering either building.

İmamoğlu is a staunch critic of Erdoğan, accusing him of dictatorial tendencies. He has slammed Erdoğan’s plans to press ahead with building a canal through Istanbul to circumvent the Bosporus, warning of an environmental disaster.