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A Troubling Conviction and Sentence in Turkey

Thousands of protesters gather in Turkey over Istanbul mayor's conviction.

A court in Turkey sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to two years and seven months in prison for insulting public officials in a speech.

A Troubling Conviction and Sentence in Turkey
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The United States “is deeply troubled and disappointed” that a court in Turkey sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to two years and seven months in prison. If upheld upon appeal, the sentence would also prohibit Imamoglu from holding or running for political office. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, “His conviction is inconsistent with respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.”

France, Germany, and the European parliament also denounced Imamoglu’s conviction, as did several human rights organizations.

Ekrem Imamoglu is not only the mayor of Istanbul, he is a prominent member of the opposition political party, the Republican People’s Party, and a potential presidential candidate in the 2023 elections in Turkey. Imamoglu’s purported crime was insulting public officials in a speech he gave in 2019.

State Department Spokesperson Price said the United States remains “gravely concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, including through pretrial detention, overly broad claims of support for terrorism, and criminal insult cases.”

In its most recent human rights report on Turkey, the U.S. State Department noted, “The judiciary faced several problems that limited judicial independence, including…allegations of interference by the executive branch. It also reported that observers “raised concerns that the outcome of some trials appeared predetermined,” and that there was a lack of respect for due process and adherence to credible evidentiary thresholds.

Among other rights abuses, the report also cited “arbitrary arrest and continued detention of tens of thousands of persons, including opposition politicians and former members of parliament, lawyers, journalists, [and] human rights activists.”

“The people of Turkey,” Spokesperson Price declared in his statement, “deserve the ability to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution. The rights to exercise the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in Turkey’s constitution, its international law obligations, and its OSCE commitments. We urge the government to cease prosecutions under criminal ‘insult’ laws, and to respect the rights and freedoms of all Turkish citizens, including by ensuring an open environment for public debate.”