The mayor of Istanbul and closest competitor of Turkish President Erdogan, Ekrem Imamoglu, has been sentenced to imprisonment for insulting him. He has been jailed for two years and seven months. He is also banned from politics.

A political ban has been imposed on the mayor of Istanbul and possible Erdogan challenger Ekrem Imamoglu. An Istanbul court also sentenced Imamoglu to two years and seven months in prison on Wednesday for insulting him. An appeal can still be lodged against the verdict, said Imamoglu’s lawyer, Kemal Polat, of the German Press Agency.

Imamoglu is a politician from the Kemalist CHP, which according to polls is currently the opposition party with the most votes in Turkey. He is considered one of the potential challengers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the elections scheduled for 2023.

In the indictment, Imamoglu was accused of publicly insulting the members of the Turkish electoral authority in connection with the local elections in 2019. He is said to have called those “who canceled the March 31 elections” “idiots.”

Polat had described the process and the allegations against his client as “baseless”. Imamoglu did not mean the electoral authority, but reacted to the same insult by the interior minister against him, it was said in the final defense of his lawyers. The interior minister, on the other hand, is not on trial. Opposition members described the process as “politically motivated”.

Imamoglu narrowly won the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election against the candidate of the ruling AKP party. However, the election commission annulled the result at the request of the AKP and had the election repeated – Imamoglu won again. Observers see his victory in the 16-million metropolis as an indirect defeat for Erdogan, who campaigned for his party’s candidate. The city had previously been ruled by the AKP and its political predecessors for more than 20 years.

During the trial, several hundred people gathered in front of Istanbul’s city hall to protest against the trial. CHP boss Kemal Kilicdaroglu broke off his trip to Germany in the evening in response to the verdict, as the party announced.