The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Türkiye, John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA) and Boriss Cilevičs (Latvia, SOC), have reacted to the sentencing at first instance of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to nearly three years in prison for allegedly insulting members of the Supreme Electoral Council.
“We are appalled by this decision of the Istanbul Court a few months before the presidential and parliamentary elections. This is another example of the restrictive and repressive environment in which opposition members operate, about which the Parliamentary Assembly already expressed its deep concern last October.
We therefore once again urge the Turkish authorities to abolish those provisions of the Penal Code whose abusive use restricts freedom of expression year after year and authorises procedures that amount to judicial harassment of the opposition, undermining its capacity to contribute to democratic debate and even to the electoral process.
The confirmation of this verdict would result in the banning from politics of a prominent opposition figure, who won the 2019 local elections in Istanbul after they were controversially annulled. With national elections only a few months away, this would be a serious signal about the state of Turkish democracy.
We are therefore counting on the appeal courts to rule in accordance with European standards and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on freedom of expression - a cornerstone of Council of Europe membership - and guarantee the rights of the political opposition in Türkiye.”