Erdoğan’s top challenger in court in Turkey, may be jailed

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition mayor of Istanbul touted as a top potential challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at elections next year, could face jail and a political ban on charges that he insulted the country’s election board.

An Istanbul court is due to reach a decision as early as Wednesday in the case brought by prosecutors. İmamoğlu denies the charges against him.

Erdoğan and his government are seeking to “use the law as a weapon” to ensure İmamoğlu cannot run in upcoming elections, the Istanbul mayor’s office said in a statement.

Opinion polls show that İmamoğlu and his fellow Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavas, are more popular than Erdoğan ahead of the vote, which must be held by June next year. Neither have announced that they will run in the election.

İmamoğlu would face up to four years in jail if convicted. He has the right to appeal, but if he is removed from office then the Istanbul city council, dominated by members of Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), would elect his replacement.

The Istanbul mayor is accused of insulting members of the election authority when he said in November 2019 that those who cancelled an initial public vote for the mayoral post in March that year were “fools”. A re-run was held in October. İmamoğlu said his comments were aimed at Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who had called him “a fool” for criticising the annulment of the ballot.

Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the head of the CHP’s party offices in Istanbul and an architect of İmamoğlu’s victory, has been convicted to almost five years in jail for insulting Erdoğan. She was briefly detained yesterday ahead of her possible imprisonment.

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