Turkish prosecutors want Istanbul mayor to be jailed for 15 months

Turkish prosecutors want Istanbul mayor to be jailed for 15 months


Turkish prosecutors on Friday tried to jail the mayor of Istanbul for at least 15 months over a remark he made after defeating an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in elections, which would bar him from politics, they said his lawyer.

Ekrem Imamoglu, a member of the main social democratic opposition party CHP, did not appear for the latest hearing of the controversial trial on Friday, which was adjourned until December 14.

As tensions simmer seven months ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections, Imamoglu, 52, faces charges of “insulting” officials after he was stripped of his narrow victory over the ruling party’s mayoral candidate in March 2019.

Prosecutors on Friday asked for a prison sentence of between 15 months and four years and a month for Imamoglu, his lawyer Kemal Polat said.

Any verdict would automatically bar the mayor from political office for the duration of the verdict, the attorney said, denouncing a “political affair.”

Leaving Friday prayers, Imamoglu said he hoped for an acquittal.

“This kind of court process drives people to despair, especially the younger generations,” he said.

– ‘Ashamed’ –

Erdogan – who launched his own career as Istanbul mayor and considers the city his home turf – refused to recognize the outcome of the 2019 vote.

Election officials called in a new poll after reportedly spotting hundreds of thousands of “suspicious votes” after Imamoglu was already sworn in.

The decision to call a repeat sparked global condemnation and mobilized a wave of support for Imamoglu, including former ruling party voters.

He won the replay but months later let his grudge against the ruling party spill over.

“Those who called off the March 31 elections are idiots,” he told reporters at the time, angering the authorities.

In an interview aired on Fox TV on Friday, Imamoglu said he had faith in the justice system.

“I am absolutely not interested in what is going to happen to me. I’m not worried or scared,” he said.

“But I am ashamed” of this process. “There can’t be such a verdict. It’s tragi-comic.”

His fate will be closely watched for signs of judicial independence ahead of a presidential election in which Erdogan will seek to extend his two-decade rule.

– mass arrests –

Friday’s hearing came a week after the party of CHP leader and potential presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu said he had been charged with “spreading misleading information” under a new disinformation law.

A conviction could bar him from the presidential election.

Kilicdaroglu had tweeted that he blamed the Islam-based AKP government for what he called “an epidemic of methamphetamines” in Turkey, and claimed authorities were siphoning off drug sales to help pay down the national debt.

Referring to Imamoglu, Kilicdaroglu has accused Ankara of “banning our mayor from any political activity”.

But he warned his colleague is “a big player who will get stuck in his throat” by those trying to orchestrate his downfall.

Struggling with an economic crisis that saw inflation hit 85 percent last year, Erdogan’s government is keen to clip the wings of an opposition still reeling from waves of arrests after a failed 2016 coup.

Hundreds of supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan, once an ally, believes is behind the attempted coup against his regime, have been arrested in recent weeks.

Gülen, a Muslim cleric, has repeatedly denied any involvement, and the United States has denied Turkey’s extradition requests.

Since the failed coup, more than 300,000 people have been arrested in Turkey for alleged links to Gülen.

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