12/15/2022, 11.59
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Istanbul, Mayor Imamoglu rejects judegment of first instance: 'There is no justice'

Sentenced to two years and seven months in prison, with disqualification from public office. A crowd took to the streets to demonstrate against the judges. He spoke of a 'political' verdict and of law being used 'for political purposes'. The 2023 presidential race at risk, now the game is being played on appeal.




Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The race for the 2023 presidential elections in Turkey opened in courtrooms yesterday with the conviction in first instance of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, one of the most influential and charismatic opposition figures and one of the main challengers to Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The judges of the seventh criminal section handed down a sentence of two years and seven months in jail, with a ban on holding public office and, consequently, the inability to challenge the head of state in the vote on 18 June next year. In a speech to the crowd that took to the streets to support him, the mayor said the judgement shows how 'there is no justice today in Turkey'. 

In the event of confirmation on appeal, the gates of prison would open for Imamoglu and any possibility of challenging Erdogan in the presidential elections would be precluded. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Republican Opposition Party (Chp), cut short his visit to Germany as he hurried back to Turkey in response to a 'serious violation' of law. "Concern and displeasure" are expressed by the US State Department; Parliament's special rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sanchez Amor speaks of an "inconceivable" verdict.

The trial revolves around the accusation that he "insulted" the members of the Electoral Council who annulled the elections he won - by a narrow margin - over rival and former premier Binali Yıldırım as Istanbul's first citizen. A success replicated even after the voters were called back to the polls, and by an even bigger margin. He had called the members of the council 'fools', reviving - this was the defence - the same expression previously used against him by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. 

Imamoglu's success in Istanbul in spring 2019 came unexpectedly in many ways, ending the ruling Akp party's hegemony over the economic and business capital, a metropolis of 17 million inhabitants that is the thermometer of the country's political and social life. Officers in riot gear patrolled the streets outside the courthouse on the city's Asian side yesterday, while the mayor continued working in his headquarters across the Bosphorus on the European side. 

Addressing the crowd (pictured) gathered in the evening to protest the verdict, Imamoglu spoke of a decision that is 'an expression of an illegal and irrational situation'. The verdict is further proof that 'there is no justice' and represents a 'disgrace' for the Turkish judiciary, which has been turned 'into a tool to punish dissidents'. In his speech, sent to AsiaNews in its entirety by one of his collaborators, he attacks those "few people" who have devastated the nation "for personal gain" at the price of "high unemployment, a high cost of living and an economic abyss". And even the children 'no longer have hope for the future'. 

Imamoglu goes on to assure that he will not be bowed down by 'a corrupt order' and 'nothing has changed for me after a 'null and void' ruling. "The judiciary is not really independent. Once again it is clear that its functioning is dominated by politics, not by the principles of justice. Our political rivals [...] must have realised,' the mayor concluded, 'that they cannot fight us at the ballot box, so they have resorted to such a course of action. 

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Erdogan wins elections, but his party loses votes
Istanbul mayor under investigation: 'disrespectful' of Mohammed II
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