A Turkish court has accepted an indictment seeking a prison sentence of up to seven years for İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu for allegedly committing fraud in public tenders when he was a district mayor in İstanbul, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Wednesday.
İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), ran the Beylikdüzü Municipality between April 2014 and April 2019.
An investigation was launched into İmamoğlu and several other staff members from the municipality by the Büyükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which acted on a criminal complaint filed by a company that lost a tender held by the municipality on Dec. 29, 2015.
The indictment says that İmamoğlu, along with six former municipal staff members, committed fraud in the tender and caused financial loss to the public in the amount of TL 250,000 ($13,310).
The indictment seeking three to seven years for the seven people, including İmamoğlu, on charges of fraud was accepted by the Büyükçekmece Criminal Court of First Instance in İstanbul. The first hearing of the trial will be held on June 15, local media reports said.
Commenting on the new case launched against him, İmamoğlu said in a tweet that he didn’t even sign any documents related to the tender in question.
“Whatever the reason, the file that had been waiting at the prosecutor’s office for two years suddenly turned into a indictment. 86 million [citizens in Turkey] now know very well where these evils are planned,” the mayor said, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Hakkımızda illa bir şey bulmak isteyenler şimdi konuyu yargıya taşımış. Her ne hikmetse 2 yıldır savcılıkta bekleyen dosya, bir anda davaya dönüşmüş. Bu kötülüklerin nerelerde planlandığını artık 86 milyon çok iyi biliyor.
Not: Bu oyunun görünen imzası yine malum müfettişe ait.
— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) January 11, 2023
İmamoğlu’s lawyer Kemal Polat also said in a statement that the mayor wasn’t involved in any stage of the tender process and didn’t give any instructions or directions on the matter.
The new case comes a month after a court banned İmamoğlu, one of Erdoğan’s most internationally recognized rivals, from politics for insult charges in a case stemming from his 2019 victory in İstanbul, which was initially annulled. He can keep serving as mayor while the appeals process winds its way through the courts.
However, a separate Interior Ministry probe into his office on “terrorism” charges threatens to sideline him sooner.
The cases make İmamoğlu’s candidacy in the presidential election slated for summer extremely risky for the opposition, despite polls showing him beating Erdoğan in a head-to-head race.
Observers say that İmamoğlu’s legal battles illustrate how far Erdoğan is prepared to go to ensure he doesn’t lose the 2023 election.