‘Democracy vigil’ launched in support of İstanbul mayor facing political ban, prison sentence

Supporters of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu wave national flags as they gather in front of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality during a protest in Istanbul on December 15, 2022, after a Turkish court sentenced him to more than two years jail and banned him from politics ahead of next year's presidential election. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

A group of people launched a “democracy vigil” in İstanbul in support of the city’s popular mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, who was recently handed down a prison sentence and a political ban by a court on conviction of insulting public officials, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Kronos news website.

İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a key opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was sentenced to two years, seven months in prison and barred from politics for allegedly insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK).

The sentence and the political ban must be upheld by an appeals court after a petition is filed.

The sentence drew harsh criticism from high-level officials in Europe and the US as well as from prominent rights groups.

The “democracy vigil” will last for a month and will take place between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Saraçhane neighborhood of İstanbul, where the municipal building is located.

Lawyer Ali Gül, a member of the group holding the vigil, posted a video on Monday explaining that the vigil is being launched by ordinary people to stand up for democracy in the wake of the “unjust sentence” given to İmamoğlu. Gül called on all İstanbulites to join in the vigil, saying that they want to stand behind the will of the people and their votes.

He said İmamoğlu’s sentence was politically motivated and not legal. İmamoğlu liked Gül’s tweet.

The İstanbul mayor is one of the potential candidates against Erdoğan in the 2023 presidential election. The verdict against him is widely seen as an attempt by Erdoğan to sideline him.

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