Prosecutor seeks prison sentence, ban from politics for İstanbul mayor

News About Turkey - NAT
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• İmamoğlu won a repeat election for İstanbul mayor in June 2019, after the first election was canceled due to “irregularities”

• In November 2019, he said those who canceled the election were “fools,” in response to a statement from the interior minister who had also called himself a fool

• In May 2021, a criminal case was filed against the mayor for insulting the members of the country’s top electoral body

• The judge was replaced before today’s hearing, which raised suspicions of political influence on the trial

• The prosecutor demanded a sentence at today’s hearing

• If found guilty, the mayor will face a ban from politics

• One of the most popular opposition politicians, İmamoğlu is widely regarded as a possible joint candidate for the opposition in the 2023 elections

The seventh hearing of the case where the İstanbul mayor is charged with “insulting a public official” was held today (November 11).

The prosecutor demanded a four-year prison sentence and a ban from politics, the İstanbul 7th Penal Court of First Instance adjourned the hearing to December 14, when it is expected to hand down its judgment.

The case concerns İmamoğlu’s remarks from November 2019, where he called those who canceled the March 2019 local elections in İstanbul “fools.”

He had made these remarks in response to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who had called İmamoğlu “a fool who complained about Türkiye at the European Parliament,” citing a November 2019 speech by the mayor.

A criminal case was filed against İmamoğlu in May 2021 for insulting the members of the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), which had canceled the first election for “irregularities.”

Against the allegations, İmamoğlu said his intention was not to insult the YSK members and his statement was in response to the minister.

“I’m ashamed of this court”

Ahead of the hearing, İmamoğlu joined a morning news program on Fox TV, where he commented on the trial.

“I don’t feel any worry, fear or anxiety, but I’m ashamed of this court. There can’t be such a trial. It’s a tragicomic situation,” he said during the program.

İmamoğlu once again recalled the results of the repeat elections in June, saying, “They made a mistake, and the difference rose to 800,000. If they make one more mistake, it will be eight million.”

İmamoğlu had won the March 2019 election by only 0.25 percent, or about 13,000 votes against the ruling party candidate. After the cancellation of the election, which had caused public outrage, he won the repeat election by over 800,000 votes.

He also pointed out the replacement of the judge before the hearing and the suspicion that there might be political influence in this decision.

“Why was this judge, who had come from the Black Sea [region], was hastily sent back to the Black Sea again despite working in İstanbul for just one year?” he asked.

Journalist Barış Terkoğlu had claimed in an article in the daily Cumhuriyet that the judge was removed from his position after refusing the instructions to sentence İmamoğlu to more than two years in prison so that he would be banned from politics.

The hearing

CHP deputies and many party members went to the İstanbul Anadolu Courthouse in the Kartal district for the hearing.

Ahead of the hearing, the Kartal District Governor’s Office declared a ban on gatherings and demonstrations for “public security” reasons, excluding the Neyzen Tevfik Square.

Riot police and water cannon trucks were also deployed at the courthouse. The officers blocked the floor where the hearing took place with makeshift barricades, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) reported.

At the hearing, Gülşah İnce, a reporter for Fox TV, testified as a witness.

“The footage is clear. I have also sent the raw footage and the news report to you. Quoting Mr. Interior Süleyman Soylu’s words about him precisely, I asked İmamoğlu about him. And he gave an answer. There were [journalists from] other TV channels as well,” she said.

The court rejected the requests of İmamoğlu’s lawyers for the court to issue a writ so that those witnesses who failed to attend today’s hearing can be heard. The witnesses in question were journalist Necati Özkan and Murat Ongun, the then-spokesperson of the municipality.

Kemal Polat, an attorney for İmamoğlu, said, “The prosecution presented their final opinion before all the evidence could be collected. We do not think that the judge is impartial and ask him to be recused.”

The judge also rejected the request for recusal.

The prosecutor repeated his final opinion which he submitted to the court at the fourth hearing on April 22, 2020, requesting that İmamoğlu be sentenced.

The court adjourned the hearing to December 14. (VK)




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