Istanbul mayor calls on public to convene ahead of a key hearing
Istanbul's opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on Wednesday asked his compatriots to convene in Sarachane district of Istanbul where the municipality building stands ahead of a a politically-charged trial that could bar him from seeking office months before next year's general election.
“Just as Istanbulites demonstrated their willpower before, they will do so today. Whatever the ruling, I invite everyone to Sarachane at 16.00 to show our joy, and our will,” he said on Twitter.
Prosecutors want to sentence Ekrem Imamoglu to between 15 months and four years in jail over a remark he made after defeating the ruling bloc’s candidate in a hugely controversial mayoral vote in 2019.
A few months past a rerun of the elections, after his first victory was annulled, he called the panel which took the decision “idiots," which led the prosecutors to charge the mayor with the crime of "insulting" public officials.
People who are sentenced to less than four years are rarely put behind bars in Turkey but a conviction would disqualify Imamoglu -- one of the potential candidates against President Erdogan in next year’s elections.
"IMAMOGLU IS NOT ALONE"
Thousands of Istanbulites responded to Imamoglu’s call and gathered amid slogans that said “Rights, law, justice!” in Sarachane square where a heavy police presence showed itself.
“Comparing the past with the present, there is nothing left in the name of democracy in Turkey. The government needs to change, Imamoglu should not be punished,” said a senior citizen named Ercan, while another Istanbulite said: “Everyone should know that Ekrem İmamoğlu is not alone.”
KİLİCDAROGLU IN A FOREIGN TRIP
Among the crowds, eyes searched for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Imamoglu’s party CHP (Republican People’s Party) but he was in a foreign trip in such an important day for his party, showing signs of the inner struggle, while the leader of the Good Party Meral Aksener announced on Twitter that she was on her way to Sarachane.
The CHP has been holding round-table talks with five othier opposition parties including the Good Party about nominating a joint candidate who would not split the anti-Erdogan vote.
Those talks have been mired by arguments over policy and general unease about fielding Kilicdaroglu instead of someone more likely to beat Erdogan.
Imamoglu's legal troubles have effectively disqualified him from the race.
He told reporters this week that Kilicdaroglu was the only possible candidate from the CHP.
"But at the end of the day it is up to the round-table to make a decision about a single candidate," Imamoglu said.