İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu appeared at the first hearing of his trial at an İstanbul court on Monday on charges of insulting election officials following the cancellation of a municipal vote in the city in 2019, local media reported.
İmamoğlu, who is from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and who ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in İstanbul in the 2019 local election, is frequently the target of judicial harassment.
İmamoğlu won against the AKP candidate in the March 31, 2019 local election, but the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) decided to cancel the İstanbul poll, citing irregularities, leading to widespread criticism and comments that it was acting on orders from the AKP.
İmamoğlu again won the election held in June of the same year, increasing his support by 800,000 votes.
The indictment drafted by the Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that the mayor insulted 11 officials at the YSK in a press statement on Nov. 4, 2019.
İmamoğlu had said at the time that the people who cancelled the March 31 election in İstanbul were “fools” because they had tarnished Turkey’s international image.
The mayor said during Monday’s hearing at the Anadolu 7th Penal Court of First Instance that his remarks, which were in response to a question from a reporter, were not aimed at the YSK officials but at Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who in an earlier statement used the same word against him.
In November 2019 Soylu called İmamoğlu a “fool” due to his criticism of the Turkish government at a Council of Europe event in Strasbourg a month earlier, saying he would pay the price for what he did.
İmamoğlu delivered a speech at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on Oct. 30, 2019 in which he spoke about the rerun of the March 31 local election in İstanbul because, he said, the AKP manipulated the results and had the election cancelled by the election authority.
“I am saying this to the fool who went to Europe and complained about Turkey there. This nation will make you pay the price for this. Shame on you. Shame on you for the schools of this nation you attended, for the effort this nation made for you,” Soylu said in a veiled reference to İmamoğlu at the time.
İmamoğlu said he was simply returning the minister’s remark targeting him and had no intention of insulting the election officials because he is of the belief that it was government actors who had the election results cancelled.
The mayor asked for his acquittal in the trial, which was adjourned to a later date.