A court in Turkey sentenced the mayor of Istanbul, the country's most populous city, to two years and seven months in prison on Wednesday on charges of insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council.
The court convicted Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and also imposed a political ban that could lead to his removal from office. Imamoglu, who belongs to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is expected to appeal the verdict.
Critics alleged the mayor's trial was an attempt to eliminate a key opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in June.
Imamoglu was elected to lead Istanbul in March 2019. His win was a historic blow to Erdogan and the president's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which had controlled Istanbul for a quarter-century. The party pushed to void the municipal election results in the city of 16 million, alleging irregularities.
The challenge resulted in a repeat of the election a few months later, which Imamoglu also won.
Imamoglu was charged with insulting senior public officials when he was accused of saying those who annulled local elections in 2019 were "fools".
The mayor denied insulting members of the electoral council, insisting his words were a response to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu calling him “a fool” and accusing Imamoglu of criticising Turkey during a visit to the European Parliament.
Thousands gathered in front of the municipality building to denounce the verdict against the popular mayor.