Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the courts would correct any mistakes in an appeal process after the jailing of Istanbul’s opposition mayor, and in the meantime Turks had no right to ignore legal rulings.
In his first direct comments on Wednesday’s conviction of Ekrem Imamoglu – a potential challenger to Erdogan who was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison and handed a political ban – Erdogan said he did not care who is the opposition candidate in next year’s elections.
Imamoglu was prosecuted for insulting public officials in 2019, when he criticized a decision to cancel the first round of municipal elections that he won against the 25-year incumbent government of Erdogan’s AK Party.
“There’s still no final court decision yet. The case will go to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation,” Erdogan said. “If the courts have made a mistake, it will be corrected. They’re trying to pull us into this game.”
Imamoglu’s conviction has rallied the opposition bloc around what it sees as a fight for democracy, the rule of law and justice. Thousands have gathered at rallies led by Imamoglu, who has said he plans to appeal his conviction.
“There have been many court rulings that we have harshly criticized ourselves, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to insult judges or to ignore court rulings,” Erdogan told a rally at Mardin in Turkey’s southeast.
Critics say Turkey’s judiciary has been bent to Erdogan’s will to punish his critics. The government says they are independent.