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Turkey’s far-right leader supports former minister with alleged links to mafia

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Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has extended his full support to the country’s former interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, who is at the center of controversy due to his alleged links to the mafia.

Soylu’s alleged links to mafia groups again came to public attention following the arrest of mobster Ayhan Bora Kaplan earlier this month.

While Soylu’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) remained silent about his alleged links to Kaplan, Bahçeli extended his support to the former minister, saying on his X social media account on Monday that the former minister is targeted by unfounded accusations and character assassination.

He said his MHP fully stands behind Soylu as an act of solidarity and political ethics.

The MHP is an election ally of the AKP.

Bahçeli said Soylu faces the accusations from people who want revenge on him due to his actions as interior minister against terrorist groups.

“Mr Soylu is a statesman and politician who successfully served as the interior minister between 2016 and 2023,” said Bahçeli.

The arrest of Kaplan, who faces charges including “forming a criminal organization,” “intentional injury,” “armed robbery,” “deprivation of liberty” and “torture” and others comes amid significant changes within the police force after Soylu was removed from the post of interior minister.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan replaced Soylu with Ali Yerlikaya in the new cabinet he announced in June following his re-election in the presidential election in May.

Soylu was elected to parliament in the May general election as an AKP lawmaker and enjoys parliamentary immunity.

During Soylu’s tenure, Turkey faced allegations of involvement in international drug trafficking, primarily driven by Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker. In a series of dramatic videos in 2021, Peker accused Soylu and other high-ranking officials of protecting and facilitating cocaine trafficking networks.

Soylu was appointed as the interior minister shortly after a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. He was the architect of the massive purge and arrest of thousands of non-loyalist citizens under bogus terrorism or coup charges.

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