Top Turkish court upholds jail term for opposition Istanbul chairwoman

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld three separate prison terms for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul provincial chairwoman Canan Kaftancıoğlu in move critics see as another crackdown on opponents ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The CHP Istanbul head is facing a total of 4 years and 11 months in prison on charges on "insulting a civil servant,” "insulting the president," and “insulting the Turkish state,”  T24 news site reported.

Kaftancıoğlu has become targeted in numerous lawsuits upon emerging as a standout opposition figure in Turkey after the CHP won the mayoral seat for Istanbul in local elections in 2019, defeating the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). AKP and its preceding Islamist party had governed the city for 27 years.

The charges against Kaftancıoğlu were based on tweets dating back eight years, according to state-run Anadolu news agency, and were originally issued just weeks after the CHP’s election victory.

The top court upheld a one year and six-month sentence for Kaftancıoğlu on charges of insulting a civil servant, another one year and eight-month sentence on charges of insulting the Turkish state and a two year and four-month sentence, down from two years and four months demanded by a prosecutor, on charges of insulting the president, T24 said.

The court on Thursday also dropped two separate cases against the CHP Istanbul chairwoman, in which she was accused of “conducting terror propaganda,” and “inciting hatred and enmity,” according to T24.

Lower courts had found the CHP chairwoman guilty of charges of insulting the republic, public officials and the president, as well as inciting hatred and terrorist propaganda. The verdicts previously foresaw jail sentences totalling nine years and eight months.

Hours after the court ruling, Kaftancıoğlu released a defiant video message on Twitter, saying there would be ne “let up” in mobilising for hope and “ridding the ruling power of evil.”

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced that his party would be marching to the party’s Istanbul headquarters to protest the top court’s verdict.

“All of the lawmakers of our party, head towards are Istanbul provincial headquarters immediately,” the CHP leader said on Twitter.

Hours after Kılıçdaroğlu's announcement, hundreds of CHP lawmakers and supporters, including Kaftancıoğlu, gathered in front of party’s Istanbul headquarters, where party leader delivered a speech condemning the sentence, Evrensel newspaper reported.

"You are weak and we are strong,’’ the CHP leader said, addressing Erdoğan. ‘’Behind Canan, who you are trying to punish, is an entire nation. The will of the nation is greater than you.’’

The European Parliament's (EP) Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor tweeted on court’s ruling, saying it was ‘’dark news’’ hours after an EP vote over the body’s Turkey report.

Turkey’s opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) dismissed the ruling as being outside the scope of the law.

“The government is trying to do what it could not do through its power by way of the judiciary,” Arti Gerçek news site cited HDP group chairwoman Meral Danış Beştaş as saying.

“This ruling does not belong the judiciary, but the political power,’’ she added.

The CHP on Thursday called for extraordinary meeting over the ruling against Kaftancıoğlu, Artı Gerçek said.

(This article has been updated with CHP's protest, reactions to ruling).

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