Thousands protest against conviction of Istanbul mayor
Thousands in Turkey protest the conviction and political ban of the city's mayor Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
Thousands of Turks gathered in a square in the center of Istanbul on Thursday to protest the political ban against the opposition mayor of the city, Ekrem İmamoğlu, before next year's presidential elections.
A court sentenced Ekrem İmamoğlu on Wednesday to more than two years in prison and prevented him from practicing politics for the same period, on charges of insulting members of the Supreme Electoral Council in 2019.
Earlier today, Imamoglu announced his rejection of the verdict, stressing he confront "the coup against the people's will."
For his part, Imamoglu's lawyer confirmed that he would appeal the conviction, which means that he would remain in the position of mayor; however, he is now excluded from the presidential elections scheduled for next year.
The US State Department expressed that it is "deeply troubled and disappointment" at the possibility of excluding one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's biggest rivals from the political scene.
Germany described the decision as "a heavy blow to democracy," while France urged Turkey "reverse its slide away from the rule of law, democracy, and respect for fundamental rights."
This comes six months before the elections in which the Turkish opposition is putting its best foot forward to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled the country for 20 years, while a prison sentence against Imamoglu has raised the risk of a presidential struggle between opposition poles.
Turkey's fractious opposition is struggling to unite behind a single candidate to challenge Erdogan in the upcoming elections.
However, the head of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kamal Kilicdaroglu, is still working hard for the candidacy, and Meral Aksener of the nationalist Iyi "Good Party" has also seen her electoral ratings shoot up.
Millet, iradesine sahip çıktı.— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) December 15, 2022
Bugün Saraçhane'de bu iradeye sahip çıkan kıymetli liderlerimize, vekillerimize, belediye başkanlarımıza ve bizi hiçbir zaman yalnız bırakmayan İstanbullulara teşekkürler. Hiçbir yargı oyunu, hiçbir engelleme çabası bizi yolumuzdan döndüremez. pic.twitter.com/jsoHBnDHht
Imamoglu and six opposition party leaders walked side by side in a crowd of supporters in a rally meant to show defiance to Erdogan.
“I am absolutely not afraid of their illegitimate verdict,” Imamoglu addressed the crowd, adding, “I don’t have judges to protect me, but I have 16 million Istanbulites and our nation behind me.”
A MetroPoll poll showed that even voters for Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted AKP party believe "the court case against Imamoglu was politically motivated."
The case against İmamoğlu is really a libel case, or a political case? pic.twitter.com/XzhQ1DPpzt— MetroPOLL Araştırma (@metropoll) December 14, 2022
The poll showed that 28.3% of supporters of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) believe it was driven by politics compared to 24% that thought it was a libel case.