ISTANBUL (Al Jazeera) – Turkish prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to four years for the mayor of Istanbul for insulting election authorities, according to state-owned news agency Anadolu.
Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, was elected mayor of Turkey’s biggest city in June 2019 in a rerun vote after an earlier election was cancelled over allegations by the ruling AK Party of fraud.
The prosecutors’ indictment calls for Imamoglu to be given a four-year sentence for insulting Supreme Election Board members in a speech he delivered after the cancellation of the first round of elections in March 2019, Anadolu said.
He was quoted by Turkish media as saying that the cancellation affected Turkey’s international standing and the officials who took the decision were foolish.
Imamoglu has rejected the charge in a written statement, the private DHA news agency said, quoting the mayor as saying: “The discourse was political, it was strong political criticism.”
Recent opinion polls suggest Imamoglu’s popularity has overtaken President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, as Turkey’s leader battles the global COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges, ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 2023.
The indictment has been accepted and an Istanbul court will hear the case, Anadolu reported.
Imamoglu faces several other investigations. Earlier this month, prosecutors launched a probe over his allegedly “disrespectful” behavior during a visit to a shrine.
He also faces investigation over his opposition to Erdogan’s flagship project creating an alternative to the Bosphorus strait, a major world shipping lane.