Turkey bars access to reports covering gag order on AKP-era corruption files

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An İstanbul court has blocked access to news reports covering a ruling made by another local court that blocked access to nearly 300 reports on files detailing alleged incidences of illegal spending and irregularities in the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) during the time in city government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), local media reported on Wednesday.

The Bakırköy 2nd High Criminal Court on Tuesday blocked access to news reports that covered the access block imposed on nearly 300 reports on AKP-era corruption documents following a petition filed by the current Transportation Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu, who was the former deputy secretary-general of the İBB.

Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu initially announced on Dec. 2 that the municipality was working on some 40 files of data including allegations related to tender rigging, overspending, loss of public funds and embezzlement during AKP rule.

In the same week he filed criminal complaints against 23 people including Karaismailoğlu on allegations of corruption.

An İstanbul court on Dec. 11 blocked access to 297 news reports on AKP-era corruption documents due to “the inclusion of statements that might lead to misunderstandings that could damage Karaismailoğlu’s reputation.”

Meanwhile, İmamoğlu has delivered to the Interior Ministry 35 of the 40 files involving alleged incidences of corruption in the municipality during AKP governance, the Sözcü daily reported on Wednesday.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s İmamoğlu on Tuesday delivered the files to the three inspectors instructed by the ministry to examine them and investigate the corruption claims involving members of the AKP government.

What happens to those files will become clear after the examination, Sözcü said.

The corruption files submitted to the Interior Ministry reportedly involve an excessive number of vehicles leased by the İBB during the AKP era, which were initially brought to public attention back in September 2019, when İmamoğlu put on display nearly 600 cars leased by the municipality in Yenikapı Square as evidence of the excessive spending.

Tarık Balyalı, a member of the İstanbul city council from the CHP, announced last year that the İBB during the AKP era had allocated 232 cars to the presidency and seven more to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself, six to the AKP head office and 51 to the AKP provincial office among other government offices and pro-government foundations.

Soon after winning office and ending the 25-year rule of Erdoğan’s AKP and its predecessors in the country’s largest city and commercial hub in June 2019, İmamoğlu hinted at corruption in the municipality committed by members of the ruling AKP and promised to hold them to account for “every kuruş [1 percent of 1 Turkish lira] coming out of people’s pockets in İstanbul.”

The mayor had previously annulled agreements with six AKP-linked foundations amid an investigation into municipal expenditures following reports showing the AKP municipality had spent TL 357 million ($47.9 million) from its municipal budget on foundations alone.

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