Reuters - Duvar English
Turkish authorities have filed a lawsuit against Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, a potential challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accusing him of "rigging a public tender" while he was a mayor of the city's Beylikdüzü district, the broadcaster Habertürk reported on Jan. 11.
The charge carries a possible jail sentence of up to seven years, Habertürk said, adding that a hearing was scheduled for June 15.
The case was opened after an Interior Ministry investigation into a tender for recruitment services that was held in 2015, Habertürk also said.
İmamoğlu called the lawsuit "an attempt to fabricate a bogus criminal offence," saying the tender process had been investigated at the time with no findings of wrongdoing.
"I do not even have my signature on tender documents. Besides, Interior Ministry and the Council of State had not detected anything problematic in their examinations at the time," İmamoğlu said on Twitter.
Yaklaşık 8 yıl evvel Beylikdüzü Belediyesi’nde gerçekleşmiş bir ihale nedeniyle yeni bir yargı süreci başladığını öğrendim. Oysa bu dosya yıllar önce müfettişlerce incelenmiş ve Danıştay’a gönderilmişti. Danıştay idari açıdan incelemesini tamamladı ve sorun görmedi.+++— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) January 11, 2023
A Turkish court on Dec. 14 sentenced İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in prison on charges of “insulting” 11 members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK), when he criticised a decision to cancel the first round of municipal elections. The court also imposed a political ban on İmamoğlu, which must be confirmed by an appeals court before application.
He has appealed that verdict but his conviction has rallied the opposition bloc around what it sees as a fight for democracy, the rule of law and justice.
İmamoğlu is one of the figures targeted frequently by Erdoğan and the AKP ever since his decisive victory in the Istanbul elections in 2019. Infuriated by losing Turkey's largest city to the main opposition, the AKP has been making İmamoğlu face investigations on bogus charges.
Despite these attempts, İmamoğlu's job approval rate has been increasing while the AKP's votes have melted in Istanbul, according to various polls.
Critics say Turkey's judiciary has been bent to Erdoğan's will to punish his critics. The government says the judges are independent.