Former top Turkish court member criticizes Mayor İmamoğlu's sentence

Former 18th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation chair Hamdi Yaver Aktan has stated that Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu's sentence should be overturned. A court sentenced İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in prison and imposed a political ban on alleged charges of "insulting" members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK).

Duvar English

In his opinion piece, former chair of 18th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, Turkey's high court of appeals, Hamdi Yaver Aktan criticized the jail sentence and political ban imposed on Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.

Aktan underlined that İmamoğlu’s remarks were towards Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, not the High Election Board (YSK), daily Cumhuriyet reported on Feb. 4.

Responding to the question posed by the media after Süleyman Soylu called him "idiot," İmamoğlu replied in 2019, "Those who canceled the election on March 31 are idiots," referring to the decision to the repetition of local Istanbul elections.

A Turkish court on Dec. 14 sentenced Mayor İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) 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, a popular rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which must be confirmed by an appeals court before application.

Aktan argued that the protection of the right to criticize authorities by the judiciary is directly related to the level of democracy in a given regime.

According to academic Prof. Nükhet Güz’s evaluation, İmamoğlu’s "idiot" remark was part of the debate between the two politicians (İmamoğlu and Soylu), and there is no reference to the YSK officials, Aktan mentioned.

Aktan also evaluated the court proceedings and stated that there are problems with the impartiality of the judiciary due to procedural and material errors.

"There is no rhetoric or insult that should be punished - that goes beyond criticism and reply," Aktan said.

"The ruling should be overturned considering the law," he added.

The YSK did not recognize İmamoğlu's initial victory in the 2019 local elections and ordered a repeat vote in which İmamoğlu won again with a larger difference against his opponent Binali Yıldırım from the ruling AKP.

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.

Despite these attempts, İmamoğlu's job approval rate has been increasing while the AKP's votes have melted in Istanbul, according to various polls.