A Turkish court sentenced Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to 2 years and 7 months in prison on Wednesday on charges of insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council.
The court convicted Imamoglu of the charge and also imposed a political ban that could lead to his removal from office, jeopardizing his potential election bid against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The politician from the main opposition Republican People’s Party is expected to appeal the verdict. On previous hearings, the mayor denied insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council.
If the verdict is upheld by higher appeal courts, it will result in a political ban for Imamoglu, the most popular political figure who can challenge Erdogan in elections scheduled for June.
Istanbul mayor an opponent of Erdogan
Bloomberg reports that the spat between the mayor and Turkey’s president goes back to the 2019 local elections, where Imamoglu took Turkey’s largest city from Erdogan in a stunning victory for the main opposition party CHP. Erdogan’s own political ascent had begun in the same city 25 years earlier and he took the electoral loss in Istanbul personally.
Turkey’s Supreme Election Council canceled Imamoglu’s first electoral victory amid heavy influence from Erdogan’s aides. The mayor won the repeat vote with a landslide.
The latest court decision will have a similar impact on public sentiment, Imamoglu said.
“The powers given to us by the nation can’t be taken away by a few. God willing, our fight will become more powerful,” Halk TV cited the mayor as saying.
Opposition leaders, including CHP’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Iyi Party’s Meral Aksener, threw their full support behind Imamoglu, who called for a rally in front of the main municipal building in Istanbul’s Sarachane district.
Imamoglu was born in Trabzon in Pontos
Imamoglu was born in Trabzon in Pontos in 1970. He is believed to speak the Pontian dialect and has maintained close links with Pontians in the town of Giannitsa, in northern Greece.