December 16, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10383

Turkish Government Sentences Leading Opposition Figure And Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu To Prison Ahead Of 2023 Elections – Turkish Political, Cultural Leaders React

December 16, 2022
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 10383

On December 14, 2022, Ekrem İmamoğlu, who is mayor of Istanbul, was sentenced to two years, seven months, and 15 days in prison and forbidden from participating in politics during that time for insulting Turkey's Supreme Election Council.[1]

Ekrem İmamoğlu As An Opposition Leader

Turkey's leading opposition party, the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP), is led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. However, since İmamoğlu's victory in the June 23, 2019 Istanbul mayoral election, he has been a leading opposition figure. This election was especially significant because İmamoğlu first won a mayoral election for Istanbul held on March 31, 2019, by a margin of 13,000 votes, defeating the AKP and its candidate former prime minister Binali Yıldırım. The ruling AKP government then annulled the election on June 6 and scheduled another election for June 23, 2019, in which İmamoğlu won by 800,000 votes – a far larger margin than that by which he had won in the March 31 election.

A November 2022 poll by Metropoll, a Turkish organization that describes itself as a "independent research establishment that performs strategic and social research,"[2]  found İmamoğlu to receive as much support as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the event of a future presidential election in Turkey going into a second round of voting. A presidential election is set to be held by June 18, 2023, and a general election will be held the same day. That survey found Mansur Yavaş, mayor of Ankara, to be more popular than President Erdoğan under the same circumstances.

Metropoll survey results showing İmamoğlu to receive nearly the same level of support as President Erdoğan, and Mansur Yavaş receiving more support than Erdoğan.

After İmamoğlu's sentencing on December 14, 2022, which will need to be confirmed by Turkey's supreme court, İmamoğlu called for a rally to be held a few hours later at the Saraçhane neighborhood of Istanbul. Speaking there, he said: "We have ideals for 2023 [i.e., the 2023 elections]. All together, working shoulder to shoulder, day and night,  in the name of carrying our nation into enlightened days, in the 2023 elections, we will send away the mentality that seeks to collapse atop this country."[3]

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu speaking to a crowd after his sentencing on December 14: "We have ideals for 2023."

Reactions From Major Politicians And Cultural Figures On İmamoğlu's Sentencing

Mansur Yavaş, who is mayor of Ankara and another possible major contender against Erdoğan in a 2023 election, tweeted: "Today's decision had no connection to law or justice. We do not accept that any political interest [should be held] superior to the will of our people."

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted: "I want everyone to know very well, that now [those in] the palace are the putschists... They will be treated accordingly."[4]

Abdullah Gül, who at various times was president, prime minister, and foreign minister of Turkey, tweeted: "Today's court decision was a great injustice not only against Ekrem İmamoğlu, but against Turkey. The national will is superior to everything. I believe that the high courts will right this wrong.[5]

Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is the leader of the Future Party and at various times was prime minister, foreign minister, and parliament speaker of Turkey, and AKP party leader, tweeted: "By calling him, I emphasized once again to the honorable Ekrem İmamoğlu, who was elected mayor of Istanbul by the will of the nation, that we are with him. We are against injustice and trials conducted with a political purpose."[6]

Muharrem İnce, leader of the Homeland Party and a former MP for the CHP who lost the 2018 presidential election to President Erdoğan, tweeted: "We do not accept the judiciary's movement according to political instructions and the request for a political ban for Ekrem İmamoğlu. I am inviting all Homeland Party supporters in Istanbul to go to Saraçhane and to be partners in this struggle for democracy."

Temel Karamollaoğlu, leader of the Felicity Party, a small Islamist party, tweeted: "The decision about the honorable Ekrem İmamoğlu is neither conscientious nor judicial! This understanding, that sees the mechanism of justice as a sword in the hand of politics, is doomed to lose! Those who ignore the will of the nation lost yesterday, and they will lose today and tomorrow, too!" [7]

Fazıl Say, Turkey's leading concert pianist and classical composer, wrote: "Turkey has become a jet-black country. Cowards! You are cowards! Unjust cowards! Clear-eyed injustice!"[8]

Ekrem İmamoğlu's wife, Dilek Kaya İmamoğlu tweeted: "You will never be able to make people who love their country give up with unlawful decisions that will never be accepted. We will continue to resist, and to continue to struggle to rebuild a legal order in which everyone can feel safe."[9]

Özcan Purçu, MP representing İzmir for the CHP, tweeted: "That is how scared they are! Because they know they are on their way out! The real struggle starts now. No giving up. Those who rob the will of the people will soon pay the price for this at the ballot box. We are with you against this civil coup."[10]

Ali Mahir Başarır, an MP representing the CHP for Mersin, wrote: "The will of the 16,000,000 people of Istanbul was robbed by an instructed court! This ruling on İmamoğlu shows once again that the judiciary has submitted its will to the palace. Shame!"[11]

Deniz Yavuzyılmaz, an MP representing Zonguldak for the CHP tweeted in reference to the sentencing: "We will object! We will thwart this game!"[12]

Engin Altay, the head of the CHP group in parliament, tweeted: "Oh dictator! 'May your cruelty increase so that your doom may be swift.' We are going to Saraçhane."[13]

Journalist Barış Pehlivan found photos showing Mehdi Komşul, the judge who sentenced İmamoğlu, appearing beside Nezir Özalp, an AKP official for Sancaktepe district in Istanbul.[14]

Judge Mehdi Komşul (far left) and AKP official Nezir Özalp (far right).

İmamoğlu's Statements Which The Turkish Government Used To File Criminal Charges

On October 30, 2019, in Strasbourg, France, İmamoğlu gave a speech at Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in which he said: "During election periods [in Turkey], public funds were used without limit for the sake of the ruling administration, divisive and polarizing language was used, and the president and members of his cabinet acted without regard for election laws." He further said that: "The government wanted to win the election in Istanbul by cancelling the decision of the Supreme Election Council."

On November 4, less than a week later, Interior Minster Süleyman Soylu, referring to İmamoğlu, said: "I am saying to the fool who went to the parliament of Europe and complained about Turkey. This nation will make you pay the price for this." The same day, İmamoğlu said, speaking to journalists in Istanbul: "Those who cancelled the election of March 31, [2019,] – the point to which we have fallen in the eyes of the world and of Europe – when we look at such things, those who cancelled the election of March 31 are fools; let that be focused on first."

This statement was interpreted as an insult against the Supreme Election Council, which filed criminal charges, and thereafter the Istanbul Attorney General started an investigation. On May 28, 2021, the Seventh Anatolia Criminal Tribunal accepted the resulting indictment and the case seeking to imprison İmamoğlu and ban him from politics started.


[1], December 14, 2022.

[2], accessed December 15, 2022.

[3], December 14, 2022.

[4], December 14, 2022.

[5], December 14, 2022.

[6], December 14, 2022.

[7], December 14, 2022.

[8], December 14, 2022.

[9], December 14, 2022.

[10], December 14, 2022. ­

[11], December 14, 2022.

[12], December 14, 2022.

[13], December 14, 2022.

[14], December 14, 2022.

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