The following statement has been prepared by Eurocities Executive Committee – the 12 mayors who have been elected by Eurocities members to represent the network. It follows the ongoing mistreatment, and sentencing today of Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul.
We would like to share our strong support for Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul. The trial of his conduct has been nothing more than a politically motivated attack on a member of the opposition.
As locally elected representatives ourselves, we look on in alarm at the decisions currently being taken by the Turkish authorities against a democratically elected mayor, who has long been active in our network, where a spirit of openness and cooperation is shared by all member cities.
Ekrem İmamoğlu is well known to many of us, as we have travelled to Istanbul to meet the mayor, and received him in our cities. Even during the height of the Covid19 pandemic we shared useful exchanges on fighting growing urban inequalities. And we have continued and keep being committed to deepen these fruitful city-to-city ties.
While democracy and the rule of law are under attack in many places, it is more than ever crucial to stand up to defend independent and impartial institutions as well as freedom of speech.
As mayors we represent the closest level of government to people and have an essential role to play in upholding these principles, which must not be undermined by other levers of government.
The decision taken in Turkish courts to persecute a political opponent of the incumbent president, represents a sham of democracy, and risks setting Turkey back years in terms of good governance.
– Eurocities Executive Committee
Today, Wednesday 14 December 2022, a Turkish court sentenced Mayor İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in prison on charges of apparently insulting senior public officials on cancelling elections in 2019 – a charge that the mayor denies and plans to appeal.
İmamoğlu’s electoral victory in May 2019 represented the first time in a quarter of a century that the Justice and Development Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no longer in control of the city apparatus. Following a push by the President’s party to void the results, citing irregularities, the elections were rerun and İmamoğlu won for a second time in June of that year.
Since taking office, however, relations between the mayor and the central government have been fraught, and in November 2019 İmamoğlu was first charged with insulting senior public officials, after being accused of calling their actions “foolishness”. Today’s verdict follows the end of the third, final, trial. Hundreds of the mayor’s supporters have already gathered outside of the city hall to protest the verdict.
The mayor has also been banned from politics for two years, ahead of presidential and national parliamentary elections in June 2023 in which the mayor was anticipated to make a run, and ahead of which he has repeatedly proved popular in polling.
Speaking from Florence upon hearing the news, Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence, said: “What happened to Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, is shocking and unacceptable for a democracy and the rule of law. I express my solidarity to my colleague and friend the mayor, and with the large community which democratically elected him, because this sentence had a political flavour which aims to prevent him from running freely in the next presidential elections.”
Main image: Taken during a visit by Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence, to Istanbul in June 2021.