The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan punished two Interior Ministry inspectors who investigated and took disciplinary action against a governor for domestic violence, abuse of power and conduct unbecoming a state official.
According to a confidential internal report, a copy of which was obtained by Nordic Monitor, then-Bursa Governor Nihat Canpolat abused his authority by engaging in sexual affair with a younger woman for several years during which time he had repeatedly beaten her. The comprehensive report was prepared on December 3, 2007 by Interior Ministry chief inspectors Sadık Altınkaynak and Şükrü Yıldız, who documented the abuse and battery charges with medical reports, phone records and victim and witness testimony.
Cover page of the Interior Ministry report on Canpolat:canpolat1
The governor, married with two children, received a reprimand for engaging in conduct unbecoming a government official that was reflected in his personnel file at the ministry, while his case was also referred to the Yalova Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for criminal charges. The investigation was launched after the victim, identified as Meltem Özkalfa, filed a complaint for abuse and battery that took place between 2005 and 2007.
In a deposition given to the chief inspectors on November 15, 2007, Özkalfa explained how she had been repeatedly beaten and abused by the governor and was subjected to threats and intimidation by his bodyguards when she wanted to file a complaint. According to her testimony, the two became acquainted when Canpolat was the district governor of Datça in southwestern Muğla province in 1986-1987. Her father Salim Özkalfa was working for the government as director of education in the same town, and the two had a professional relationship that later blossomed into a family friendship.
Canpolat started to get close to Özkalfa after she went through a bad marriage and got divorced in 1998. The phone calls started when he was governor of the southeastern province of Hakkari and continued when Canpolat was appointed governor of the central province of Kayseri. In February 2004, the relationship turned sexual, and the two started to travel long distances to see each other. In Ankara, Canpolat was using the home of his friend, nationalist lawmaker Recai Yıldırım, to rendezvous with Özkalfa.
When Canpolat was appointed governor of Bursa, where Özkalfa was living, the two started to see each other more often. She stayed at the governor’s house on weekends while the governor’s wife, who was sick and bedridden was home, and the sexual relationship continued. “Sometimes we used the governor’s office, cars, hotels, a farmhouse and my house to have sex,” Özkalfa said, detailing each meeting with dates, locations and specifics. Canpolat had been making promises to Özkalfa that he would divorce his wife and marry her. The governor was also taking Xanax, a controlled sedative that is also used for drug addicts, under the name of Özkalfa, who got prescriptions filled and gave them to the governor.
Five-page statement provided by the victim against the governor:canpolat2
When she started questioning their secret relationship, the governor asked her to wait and promised to get a divorce. However, he did not deliver on his promise. The relationship turned physically violent, and the governor started to beat her. On June 30, 2006 he beat her so badly in the governor’s residence that Özkalfa’s rib was fractured and she was hospitalized. The governor quietly took care of her treatment by asking for a favor from hospital director Mete Ekşioğlu.
The beatings did not stop and continued in following encounters that were arranged by the governor, who expressed regret for using violence against her and wanted to mend fences. “In his office, he battered me very severely in March 2007,” she recalled. She added that the governor’s bodyguard, Hasan Akay, and his friend Kani Aydın later abducted her, threatened to kill her and told her keep quiet and not to file any complaint against the governor. She was also beaten during a meeting at a farmhouse that belonged to the governor’s friend, Yener Yılmaz.
Özkalfa noted that she reported the threats and the governor’s conduct to ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers Taner Yıldız and Mustafa Elitaş, both representing Kayseri province, where the governor had previously served, as well as Mehmet Altan Karapaşaoğlu, a legislator from Bursa province.
The inspectors who wrote the damning report about the governor later faced criminal charges for alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, a group that is critical of the Erdoğan government for its corruption and the Turkish president’s arming of radical jihadists in Syria. Yıldız was jailed but was later released in 2018 and is currently standing trial in Ankara in connection with another report he co-authored about the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Altınkaynak was removed from his position as head of the inspection unit at the Interior Ministry on August 6, 2014 and was tried in a four-year criminal proceeding in Izmir on fabricated charges brought by government prosecutors. He was acquitted of all charges in May 2019. Both of them denied any association with the movement or engaging in any wrongdoing while serving as chief inspectors at the Interior Ministry for decades.
The public prosecutor’s office in the town of Mudanya, located in Bursa province, launched a criminal investigation into the governor under case file No. 2007/2224 and later indicted him. Photos, hospital and hotel records, and threatening text messages were included in the case file. Canpolat was assigned to desk duty in the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in Ankara in 2008 and resigned in 2011, after which he made an unsuccessful run for a seat in parliament on the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ticket. Canpolat, today 58 years old, is currently retired. His name was mentioned as a possible candidate for a mayoral office in the 2019 local elections but he declined to run.