Turkish interior minister resigns over pandemic panic

By: AFP      Published: 01:54 AM, 13 Apr, 2020
Turkish interior minister resigns over pandemic panic
Turkis Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.–AFP

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu resigned on Sunday after an abrupt lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, announced with two hours' notice, sparked panic buying across the country.

"May my country, which I never wished to hurt, and our president, to whom I will be faithful all my life, forgive me," Soylu said in the statement announcing his resignation.

On Friday evening, the interior ministry declared a 48-hour lockdown in Turkey's 30 largest cities just two hours before it was due to take effect.

That led to a rush to buy necessities, with crowds failing to respect social distancing rules.

The government came under harsh criticism from the opposition and on social media for endangering the lives of thousands.

Reacting to the chaotic scenes on Friday, Soylu said the lockdown had been on the "instructions" of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But on Sunday the powerful 50-year-old interior minister accepted "entire responsibility for the implementation of this measure", which he said had been carried out "in good faith".

The shutdown was to last until 2100 GMT on Sunday.

Nearly 57,000 people have been infected with the virus and around 1,200 have died, according to the latest health ministry figures.

Soylu took up the interior ministry portfolio in August 2016, a month after a bloody failed coup attempt against Erdogan.

The hard-talking Soylu oversaw massive purges in the wake of the coup bid during which tens of thousands of people were arrested including journalists and pro-Kurdish opposition figures.