In a decision that his supporters characterised as a politically motivated attempt to discredit a prominent adversary of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Turkish court condemned Istanbul’s mayor to more than two years in prison and barred him from politics.
Ekrem Imamolu received a two years, seven months, and fifteen day prison term for referring to the Supreme Election Council of Turkey’s members as “fools” in a press release three years prior.
The well-liked mayor is seen as a significant foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Nearly six months before the presidential and parliamentary elections, the judgement was handed down.
It would be necessary for an appeals court to uphold a jail term or a political ban, perhaps postponing the case’s resolution past the elections, which are scheduled for June.
İmamoğlu is anticipated to appeal the decision and did not appear at any trial hearings or the sentencing. He would be able to continue serving as president while the appeal is pending, but he would be burdened by court appearances for up to a year and a half as the nation moves closer to a general election.
The verdict is the most recent development in a campaign against influential members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Erdoan’s primary opponent in the election, which is scheduled to take place in six months. Canan Kaftancolu, the head of the CHP’s Istanbul chapter, was accused of disrespecting the Turkish Republic and Erdoan in tweets alleging theft and was later barred from politics and given a five-year prison sentence with a suspended sentence a court will determine in January whether to bar the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is predominately Kurdish, from politics.
Just prior to Mamolu’s sentencing, the mayor’s office claimed that “the will of 16 million Istanbulites is on trial.” “They are seeking to deprive the mayor of Istanbul of his political rights.”
Imamoglu won the March 2019 municipal election. His victory dealt a setback to Erdogan and his AK Party, which had ruled Istanbul for 25 years. The 16 million-person city’s municipal election results were challenged by the party on the grounds of irregularities.
A few months later, after the challenge, Imamoglu won the election again with a larger margin.
Imamoglu was accused of demeaning key government figures after he called the decision to call off the first mayoral election “foolishness.” The maximum prison term for the offence was four years.
The mayor insisted that his words were in reaction to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and rejected demeaning the members of the electoral council. Imamoglu was alleged of denouncing Turkey while visiting the European Parliament by Soylu, who referred to him as “a fool.”
Thousands of the mayor’s supporters demonstrated in front of the municipal headquarters in opposition to the ruling. Murat Ongun, Imamoglu’s press secretary, and another assistant testified in court during the trial, confirming that the mayor’s remarks were in reaction to Soylu.