İstanbul mayor faces up to 4 years in prison on charges of insulting election officials

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The prosecutor in the trial of İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on charges of insulting election officials has said in an opinion that the mayor should be sentenced to four years in prison, Turkish media outlets reported.

İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in İstanbul in the 2019 local election.

He is standing trial due to remarks he made at a news conference in November 2019 regarding the cancellation of the municipal vote in İstanbul held on March 31, 2019 in which he won against the mayoral candidate of the AKP. İmamoğlu also won a repeat election held two months later by increasing his support.

At the news conference İmamoğlu criticized the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK), which decided to cancel the İstanbul poll, citing irregularities. He 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 İstanbul mayor was indicted last May due to his statements about YSK officials on accusations that his remarks were an insult to the honor, dignity and prestige of the YSK officials.

The indictment, drafted by the Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, accused İmamoğlu of insulting 10 YSK officials including then-YSK chairman Sadi Güven.

However, İmamoğlu said at the first hearing of his trial at an İstanbul court in January 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 the mayor’s 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 is a possible candidate for the presidential election scheduled for 2023. Many say the mayor is the subject of frequent judicial harassment due to his popularity and for ending the years-long AKP rule in İstanbul.

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