Judge who heard trial of İstanbul mayor says he was advised to ban him from politics

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A judge who previously presided over a controversial trial in which Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of İstanbul from the main opposition party, is accused of insulting election officials was advised to ban him from politics, journalist Barış Terkoğlu said in a column in the Cumhuriyet daily on Monday, citing the judge.

The claim comes only days before the next hearing of the trial, which is scheduled to be held at the İstanbul 7th Penal Court of First Instance on Nov. 11 and could see İmamoğlu banned from politics over a remark he made after beating an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2019 polls.

In a column titled “They are preparing to eliminate İmamoğlu,” Terkoğlu cited judge Hüseyin Zengin, who was the chief judge in the mayor’s trial, as telling judges and prosecutors he trusts that he had been advised by some prosecutors to sentence the mayor to over two years in prison and ban him from politics.

“I also support the government. … But I’m a judge. I have to maintain my impartiality. However, I was advised by some prosecutors to imprison İmamoğlu for more than two years [and] to ban him from politics,” the journalist quoted Zengin as saying.

Terkoğlu added that after Zengin told some of his colleagues his decision to give İmamoğlu a suspended sentence, which should be less than two years according to the law, since he thought a longer sentence would be “unjust,” the judge was transferred from İstanbul to Samsun by a presidential decree in June.

According to the columnist, an official at the courthouse who found out about Zengin’s decision about İmamoğlu, whose name he declined to disclose for legal reasons, met with government officials and facilitated Zengin’s appointment to Samsun.

Terkoğlu also explained in detail a scenario in which Zengin followed the advice he was given, saying that İmamoğlu’s sentence would be upheld immediately, he would be deprived of his right to vote and to be elected, in addition to not being able to serve as a deputy, mayor or party leader until his sentence had been completed, according to Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The columnist also said that ultimately, the İstanbul Municipality would be taken away from the main opposition and İmamoğlu would be eliminated from politics.

Terkoğlu said he didn’t know whether the judge who replaced Zengin had agreed to the terms he refused to implement, but that in such a scenario where judges commit “political assassinations,” the opposition could do more than just consent to the events.

“There are three members of the [opposition] Nation Alliance in the HSK [Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors]. Even this column can be a justification for assigning an inspector to the issue. Investigators examining the allegations can meet with all actors in the process. … By sharing what happened with the public, it is possible to try to destroy the plot,” Terkoğlu said.

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 elections.

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 Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK), which decided to cancel the İstanbul poll, citing irregularities. He said at the time that the people who canceled the March 31 election in İstanbul were “fools” because they had tarnished Turkey’s international image.

He was indicted in May 2021 due to his statements about YSK officials on accusations that his remarks were an insult to the honor, dignity and prestige of the officials.

However, İmamoğlu said at the first hearing 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 canceled by the election authority.

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.

Source: Turkish Minute

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