October 30, 2017 / 4:40 PM / 4 months ago

Turkish mayor says forced to quit in Erdogan purge of local government

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish mayor announced on Monday he had quit his post and left President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party after pressure and threats “beyond unbearable”, becoming the sixth mayor in recent weeks to fall victim of a purge of local government.

Ahmet Edip Ugur, mayor of the northwestern province of Balikesir, became the first mayor to speak out against the purge, declaring at a news conference that democracy in Turkey was broken and at one point breaking into tears.

“There is no corruption, no irregularity, no failures on my side...but despite this, there are pressures and threats coming all the way into your home and to your family. This is beyond unbearable,” said, adding that he had no ties to the network of U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen’s network of engineering a failed military coup last year. Gulen denies involvement.

Since that attempted putsch, Erdogan has carried out a wideranging purge of Turkish society, from the military and police to the judiciary and academia. More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial over alleged links to Gulen, while 150,000 have been sacked or suspended from jobs.

Erdogan says the action is necessary to root out subversive elements loyal to Gulen and to maintian stability in Turkey.

Ugur said he was “sorry, hurt, but in peace”, before breaking into tears.

Ugur’s resignation followed those of the high profile Istanbul and Ankara mayors. Melih Gokcek, a staunch Erdogan loyalist who has been mayor of Ankara for 23 years and won five consecutive elections, quit on Saturday.

“I leave my post of mayor upon orders from our leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Gokcek said in a televised speech.

“This is not because I think I‘m unsuccessful, tired or for some other reason. I am solely realising the request of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who I believe will make my country a leading nation.”

Four other AK mayors have stepped down since September, including Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas, on orders from Erdogan, who says he is seeking a renewal of the AK Party he founded and which has governed Turkey since 2002.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu

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