Reuters - Duvar English
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Dec. 17 that the courts would correct any mistakes in an appeal process after the jailing of Istanbul's opposition mayor, and in the meantime Turks had no right to ignore legal rulings.
In his first direct comments on Wednesday's conviction of Ekrem İmamoğlu- a potential challenger to Erdoğan who was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison and handed a political ban - Erdoğan said he did not care who is the opposition candidate in next year's elections.
Istanbul Mayor from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), İmamoğlu was prosecuted for insulting public officials in 2019, when he criticised a decision to cancel the first round of municipal elections that he won against the 25-year incumbent government of Erdoğan's AK Party.
"There's still no final court decision yet. The case will go to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation," Erdoğan said. "If the courts have made a mistake, it will be corrected. They're trying to pull us into this game."
İmamoğlu's conviction has rallied the opposition bloc around what it sees as a fight for democracy, the rule of law and justice. Thousands have gathered at rallies led by İmamoğlu, who has said he plans to appeal his conviction.
"There have been many court rulings that we have harshly criticised ourselves, but that doesn't give anyone the right to insult judges or to ignore court rulings," Erdoğan told a rally at Mardin in Turkey's southeast.
A Turkish court on Dec. 14 sentenced İmamoğlu, a popular rival to Erdoğan, to two years and seven months in prison on charges of “insulting” 11 members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK). The court also imposed a political ban on İmamoğlu, which must be confirmed by an appeals court before application.
İmamoğlu is one of the figures targeted frequently by Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (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.
Critics say Turkey's judiciary has been bent to Erdoğan's will to punish his critics. The government says they are independent.
Erdoğan also called the opposition bloc to announce their presidential candidate for the upcoming elections that was scheduled to be hold in June 2023. "Let's know who we will compete," he said.
While some CHP figures claimed that Kılıçdaroğlu will be their candidate, there is no official announcement yet.
Some experts say Ekrem İmamoğlu should run for presidency because Kılıçdaroğlu may not attract enough conservative voters from the ruling alliance. They also think that Erdoğan's election campaign may beat Kılıçdaroğlu's because of the former's rhetoric.
The court process and the latest sentence also boosted İmamoğlu’s popularity. He has been mooted as a possible challenger and polls suggest he would defeat Erdoğan.