Istanbul deputy governor in charge of imams hit on married woman, bullied employee

Istanbul deputy governor Ahmet Önal.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

The deputy governor of Istanbul, who is in charge of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) and imams in the province, has turned out to have a long list of offenses including bullying an employee and hitting on a married woman, confidential documents have revealed.

According to internal Interior Ministry documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, Ahmet Önal, deputy governor of Turkey’s most populous province of Istanbul, was investigated on multiple allegations after complaints were filed against him. The investigations, done discreetly by the government, show a pattern of misbehavior when Önal served in a number of posts in various provinces.

 

The Ministry of Interior’s investigative report on the behavior of Ahmet Önal: 

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The unwanted sexual advance made by Önal at a married woman took place on December 18, 2003, when he was district governor (kaymakam) in the city of Finike, located in the southern Mediterranean resort province of Antalya. According to the internal investigative report drafted by the Interior Ministry on March 2, 2004, Önal was visiting a medical laboratory at Akdeniz University in the town with a group of people. A researcher identified as Sibel Nalbant helped the group with a guided tour of the facility. Some 10 or 15 minutes after the group left the lab, Önal returned alone to Nalbant’s office and left a note on her desk that said, “You’re so beautiful, let’s meet,” and included his mobile phone number.

After reading the note, a shocked Nalbant chased the district governor down in the corridor, shouting that she was a married staff member at the university and how he dare make an advance at her. Önal left in hurry without responding. Nalbant’s husband, Özgur, also a researcher at the same university, went after Önal after learning about the incident. He confronted him on the street, but the district governor’s bodyguard intervened.

Fearing the fallout, Önal asked the husband to keep the matter from the public. However, Nalbant and her husband petitioned the president’s office at the university, which in turn forwarded the complaint to the governor’s office in Antalya. During the course of the investigation, Önal admitted to have committed the transgression, blamed it on his troubles with his wife and said he felt attracted to her. He expressed regret to the investigators and agreed that his conduct was not acceptable.

The investigative report concluded that Önal committed the offense and engaged in conduct that undermined the reputation of and trust for a public official. He was officially reprimanded.

On February 18, 2008 Şadiye Filiz Seban, a chief clerk who had worked in the office of the district governor for 15 years in the town of Menderes, located in Turkey’s western province of Izmir, filed an accusation of bullying against Önal, who was the district governor in the same city. She accused Önal of acting like a despot, forcing her into early retirement, insulting her in front of others, disregarding rules and regulations and stripping her of her authority with no explanation. She asked the Interior Ministry to initiate an investigation and disciplinary proceedings against Önal.

 

Statement of Şadiye Filiz Seban, who filed a complaint against District Governor Önal: 

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Seban initially tried to resolve her complaints with the governor’s office in Izmir which was led by Cahit Kıraç at the time but obtained no results. She decided to escalate the matter to the Interior Ministry and filed her complaints there. The ministry’s undersecretary ordered the governor’s office in Izmir to look into the allegations. Under pressure, Kıraç had to assign Deputy Governor Ömer Karaman the task of investigating Önal. In his report Karaman suggested that the best way to resolve the situation would be to appoint Seban to a three-month temporary assignment in the governor’s office and remove her from the office of the district governor with whom she had differences.

Another complaint against Önal in the same town was filed by resident Ibrahim Çağlayan, whose store was unlawfully demolished by the municipality on November 1, 2007 in violation of a court order which established that Çağlayan had a right to occupy the building according to a lease agreement. Önal sent security teams to ensure the demolition of the building and as such violated the court order, infringed upon the rights of a citizen and acted against his mandate as district governor. Çağlayan’s lawyers filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office.

 

Complaint filed by the lawyers of Ibrahim Çağlayan against Önal: 

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The Turkish prosecutor launched the investigation on November 27 and asked the governor for permission to proceed with the investigation as Law No. 4483 requires that prosecutors seek the ministry’s approval before initiating investigations into bureaucrats and mayors. The ministry can approve or deny such requests. In this case Izmir Governor Kıraç denied prosecutor Ali Bayram’s request and saved Önal from criminal proceedings.

 

The Turkish governor denied permission for the prosecution of Önal:

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There are other incidents in which Önal faced administrative or legal investigations but managed to save his career thanks to his superiors, who either covered for him or did not allow the investigations to proceed. He currently serves as the deputy governor of Istanbul, and his portfolio covers government agencies and employees who work for the Diyanet, the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Health Ministry. He is responsible for running student dorms, youth camps, sporting federations and hospitals and health centers as well as the religious education of imams. The Istanbul districts Fatih, Bakırköy and Silivri fall under his jurisdiction.

 

Secret document showing that the prosecution of Önal on criminal charges was thwarted by the governor:

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