Istanbul Mayor says he was indicating Interior Minister with 'fool' remark

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who is on trial for “insulting” members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) over his “fool” remark, has said that the addressee of his speech was not YSK members, but Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. During a hearing on Jan. 10, İmamoğlu said: “The use of the word 'fool' by Interior Minister against myself is what lies at the root of the problem.”

İmamoğlu (R) and Soylu are seen in this photo.

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Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is on trial on charges of “insulting” members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) over a remark he said in the aftermath of the cancellation of the Istanbul municipal elections in March 2019.

The YSK did not recognize İmamoğlu's initial victory in the 2019 local elections and ordered a repeat vote which the mayor again won. 

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) member İmamoğlu said during Nov. 4, 2019 press meeting that a repeat of the elections had affected Turkey's international standing and those who were responsible for it were “fools.”

Turkish prosecutors later launched an investigation into İmamoğlu on allegations of insulting YSK members, demanding up to four years and month in jail for the mayor.

İmamoğlu appeared before the Istanbul Anatolian 7th Criminal Court of First Instance on Jan. 10, saying that he had uttered the “fool remark” in response to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu's targeting of him.

On Nov. 4, 2019, Soylu called İmamoğlu a “fool” to the latter's criticism of the Turkish government at a Council of Europe event. In response, Soylu said: "To the fool who went there and complained about Turkey; The people will make you pay for this."

During the hearing on Jan. 10, İmamoğlu said: “The use of the word 'fool' by Interior Minister against myself is what lies at the root of the problem.” “This 'fool' remark uttered by me has been used in response to the 'fool' remark used against me and its addressee is the Interior Minister,” İmamoğlu was quoted as saying by Demirören news agency.

Demanding his acquittal of the charges, İmamoğlu said that he had used the remark of “those who had the elections canceled” to draw attention to the “oppression of the political will.”

“Therefore, I have not made this statement in any way by addressing the YSK or its members...Its [the remark's] addressee is the political entities,” he said.

“In the cancellation of the elections, all political actors, political entities and everyone representing the government have expressed opinions,” he said. 

İmamoğlu is the first politician to have defeated the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the race for the Istanbul Municipality in 2019, since 25 years ago. This is why he is targeted frequently by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP ministers.