A noncommissioned officer (NCO) who was found to be among a crowd that threw rocks at the campaign bus of the İstanbul mayor in eastern Turkey over the weekend has been discharged from the military and taken into custody, Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday.
Seventeen people suffered minor injuries when protestors pelted İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu’s campaign bus with stones while he was touring Turkey’s conservative heartland of Erzurum on Sunday ahead of this weekend’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
İmamoğlu is campaigning on behalf of secular opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is the joint presidential candidate of an opposition alliance of six parties. He is the main rival of incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the election.
The ministry said its contract with special sergeant Akif Keleş, who was stationed at the Erzurum Central Command, had been terminated following the completion of an administrative investigation into him.
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) May 9, 2023
Meanwhile, the 15 suspects who were detained on Monday in connection to the attack on İmamoğlu’s campaign bus were released from detention on Tuesday.
One of the suspects was released after testifying to a prosecutor, while the other 14 were released on judicial probation after appearing in court.
İmamoğlu called the incident a provocation and demanded an explanation from local officials as well as the government, which he said failed to take the necessary measures to maintain his safety. Kılıçdaroğlu said in televised remarks on Monday evening that Erdoğan was responsible for the attack in Erzurum.
The incident in Erzurum underscored the tensions surrounding Sunday’s elections.
The popular İstanbul mayor has been promised a vice-presidential post should Kılıçdaroğlu win.
Polls suggest that Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan are locked in a dead heat a week from the election.