Home USA News The popular mayor of Istanbul is on trial and may face a...

The popular mayor of Istanbul is on trial and may face a political ban

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday reiterated their demand that Istanbul’s mayor be found guilty of insulting…

ISTANBUL (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday reiterated their demand that the mayor of Istanbul be found guilty of insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council during the third hearing of a trial that critics say is an attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s key opponent from the political scene. .

Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party, faces up to four years in prison if convicted and may also be disqualified from holding office.

Imamoglu was elected as the head of Turkey’s largest city in March 2019. His victory was a historic blow to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, which has controlled Istanbul for a quarter of a century. The party sought to annul the results of the municipal elections in the city of 16 million people, claiming violations.

The challenge triggered a repeat election a few months later. Imamoglu won again, this time with a comfortable majority.

His trial is based on allegations that he insulted members of the Electoral Council when he called the annulment of legitimate elections “nonsense” on November 4, 2019.

The mayor denies insulting council members, insisting his words were in response to Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu calling him a “fool” and accusing Imamoglu of criticizing Turkey during a visit to the European Parliament.

Gulsa Ince, a reporter for Turkey’s Fox TV, testified as a defense witness during Friday’s hearing. She said in court that Imamoglu made the statement after she asked him to respond to Soyla, calling him a “fool,” according to Halk TV and other media.

According to Halk TV, which was asked to make a final argument in court, the prosecutor renewed his demand that Imamoglu be found guilty of the charges and barred from office.

The trial was then adjourned until December 14 to give Imamoglu’s lawyers time to prepare their final defense arguments.

Government critics see the lawsuit as an attempt to prevent the popular mayor from running against Erdogan in presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023.

If found guilty, Imamoglu could lose his post as mayor and be replaced by someone close to Erdogan’s ruling party.

Several mayors from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), who were also elected in 2019, were removed from office for alleged links to Kurdish militants and replaced by state-appointed proxies.

Dozens of HDP lawmakers and thousands of party members have been arrested on terrorism charges as part of a government crackdown on the party.

Fraser reported from Ankara.

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