AKP MPs push for interior minister’s resignation over organised crime allegations

Fifteen members of parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have privately called for the resignation of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu over claims levelled against him by convicted crime boss Sedat Peker, BBC News Turkish reported on Thursday.

Peker has accused Soylu of close links to organised crime, detailing the allegations in a series of online videos that have garnered millions of views since early May.

The interior minister defended himself in televised interviews with state broadcaster TRT Haber and pro-government Habertürk TV last month, pointing to figures that had preceded him in office as well as an unnamed MP he said was receiving $10,000 a month from Peker.

On Sunday, Peker said he had given “much more than $10,000” to AKP MP Metin Külünk, the apparent target of Soylu’s claims.

Following Soylu’s interviews, 15 AKP MPs sought a meeting with party executives to express concern at the minister implicating their colleagues in criminal activity, according to the BBC.

The group, which included figures with previous links to the interior ministry and police force, called for Soylu’s resignation and the opening of a parliamentary investigation into Peker’s claims, the BBC said. 

Complaints were also made about a campaign rally held by Soylu on Saturday, it added.

Images posted by Soylu on social media showed packed crowds at the event in the city of Afyonkarahisar, an apparent breach of a COVID-19 curfew his ministry is responsible for enforcing. 

Soylu joined the government from the far-right Democrat Party in 2012, quickly rising through the ranks as a standard-bearer for the AKP’s nationalist wing.

Tipped as a potential successor to President Recep Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the interior minister demonstrated his growing influence last April after threatening to resign over the fallout from a hasty COVID-19 lockdown.

The sudden imposition of restrictions saw chaotic scenes as locals rushed to buy essential items, but an outpouring of support for Soylu on social media saw Erdoğan reject his resignation.

The BBC said AKP officials had again opted against removing Soylu because they did not want to be seen as ousting the interior minister over a mafia leader’s claims.

Erdoğan has also privately warned his party not to respond to Peker’s allegations, the BBC said.