Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul, was handed a prison sentence and a political ban by a Turkish court on Wednesday.
What’s his crime?
Imamoglu was tried for insulting public officials in a speech he gave after winning Istanbul’s municipal election in 2019, and was given a sentence of two years and seven months in prison as well as the ban, all of which need to be upheld by an appeals court. “Such a handful of people cannot take the authority given by the people. Our struggle is beginning to get even stronger, with God’s permission”, Imamoglu said, while describing the ruling as political, unlawful, and a sign of current conditions in the country.
Is insulting a crime in Turkey?
The ruling is believed to be a move aimed at suppressing the opposition ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled to hold in the next six months. While the main opposition presidential candidate has not yet emerged, Imamoglu has been projected as a possible leading challenger to President Tayyip Erdogan. A member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Imamoglu won the re-run vote in Istanbul municipal elections against a candidate from Erdogan’s AK Party, after the annulment of the initial vote.
Imamoglu faced trial after he described those behind the annulment as “fools”. Defending the remark, Imamoglu said it was a response to comments by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who used the same language against him. Erdogan and his party, which has ruled Turkey for two decades, are leaving nothing to chance ahead of the elections, the outcome of which is dependent on the ability of the CHP and other opposition parties to unite behind a single candidate to take on Erdogan.