US calls on Turkey to cease prosecutions under criminal “insult” laws
The United States urged Turkish government to cease prosecutions under criminal “insult” laws and to respect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens, including by ensuring an open environment for public debate.
Expressing “disappointment” over a Turkish court’s verdict against Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the conviction was inconsistent with respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.
“The people of Turkey deserve the ability to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution,” Price said in a written statement on Thursday.
A Turkish court on Wednesday has sentenced Imamoglu to 2 years, 7 months and 15 days in prison on charges of insulting the members of Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) in 2019, when the YSK annulled a mayorship election following Imamoglu’s victory.
The court also banned him from politics, a decision which needs to be finalized by the supreme court in order to be implemented.
“ We remain gravely concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, including through prolonged pretrial detention, overly broad claims of support for terrorism, and criminal insult cases,” Price said.
Price said that the right to exercise the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in Turkey’s constitution, its international law obligations, and its OSCE commitments.
In May 2019, YSK ruled to annul and re-run the mayoral election held on March 31, 2019, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appealed the vote, claiming that the opposition candidate Imamoglu’s victory came after electoral fraud and irregularities.
Condemning the YSK’s decision, Imamoglu said the electoral board had bowed to pressure from the ruling party.
“Those who cancelled the election are fools,” he said.
A re-run held in June landed Imamoglu another victory for mayorship.