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Presidential decree reshuffles police chiefs close to former interior minister Soylu

Suleyman Soylu

Former Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu

The reassignment of high-ranking police officers close to former interior minister Süleyman Soylu in a presidential decree has been interpreted as a “partial purge,” the Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Wednesday.

The most comprehensive decree on police chiefs to date was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, after Ali Yerlikaya, the former governor of İstanbul, replaced Soylu as the new interior minister in early June.

Signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the decree resulted in the reassignment of 52 high-ranking police chiefs, while 24 were moved to less active roles.

Among those moved to less prominent positions are Ankara Police Chief Servet Yılmaz, who is close to former minister Soylu, and Resul Holoğlu, Turkey’s deputy chief of police who was appointed to the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department by Soylu in October 2016.

Yılmaz, who had been chief of police for six years, played an active role in police appointments. During his tenure, a “power struggle” occurred between members of the Ankara Police Department and the Ankara Courthouse, and as a result some prosecutors who refused to comply with controversial demands from the police were reassigned, DW said.

Holoğlu came into the spotlight after being implicated in allegations made by notorious mafia leader Sedat Peker in 2021. According to Peker, Holoğlu played a part in facilitating the departure of Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, the owner of SBK Holding, who was facing money laundering charges, for a foreign country.

Peker said Holoğlu summoned Korkmaz to the Interior Ministry on behalf of Soylu on Dec. 5, 2021. During the meeting at his office, Soylu allegedly requested that Korkmaz forgive businessman İnan Kıraç’s debt of $45 million. Korkmaz left the country on Dec. 6.

Mahmut Çorumlu, head of the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department who was alleged to have been present with Holoğlu during the meeting, was appointed as the deputy chief of police.

In addition to Yılmaz and Holoğlu, İzmir Police Chief Mehmet Şahne, Bursa Police Chief Tacettin Aslan, Muğla Police Chief Süleyman Suvat Dilberoğlu and Levent Tuncer, police chief in Erzurum, where İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu’s campaign bus was attacked during the election campaign in May, were also assigned to lesser positions.

As part of the decree, Sabit Akın Zaimoğlu, who was appointed as chief of the National Security Directorate’s intelligence department by Soylu, was assigned as Bursa police chief. Additionally, Hasan Yiğit, who served as head of the directorate’s counterterrorism department, was appointed chief of police in Balıkesir.

Besides Çorumlu, the decree also resulted in the replacement of Samsun Police Chief Ömer Urhal and senior police inspectors Selami Yıldız and Caner Tayfur.

Engin Dinç, an acquitted suspect in a case regarding the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, has been appointed as the Konya chief of police.

The 52-year-old Dink, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian bilingual Agos weekly, was shot dead with two bullets to the head outside the newspaper’s headquarters in central İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007 by a then-17-year-old jobless high school dropout.

Former director of the Trabzon police intelligence unit, Dinç, was acquitted of the charge of “negligent behavior leading to intentional killing.” As for the accusation of “neglect of duty and misuse of authority” against Dinç, the statute of limitations had expired.

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