A leading Turkish opposition figure has been jailed for nearly five years in prison and banned from politics, drawing widespread concern about a crackdown on leftist organisers and politicians before elections are due to take place next year.
An Istanbul appeals court on Thursday has confirmed three charges against Canan Kaftanc o lu, head of the main opposition Republican People s Party CHP, upholding her convictions for insulting a public official, publicly insulting the republic of Turkey, and insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdo in tweets accusing him of theft.
She faces a ban on political activity and a prison sentence of four years, 11 months and 20 days. While she could get a suspended sentence, observers fear that banning the key opposition leader from politics is intended to sideline her before presidential and parliamentary elections.
After a year in which Turkey's currency has halved in value and inflation has reached close to 70%, polls indicate that Erdo and his Justice and Development Party AKP are likely to face stiff opposition.
Kaftanc O lu posted a video telling her supporters: Never stop, do not give up, do not get tired. She said we will breathe together when we establish the rule of law. The CHP leader, Kemal K l daro lu, addressed Erdo in Istanbul the same evening. He said that all of this cruelty stems from weakness.
Kaftanc O lu, an outspoken, motorbike-riding leftist, is thought to have played a central role in helping the CHP win the Istanbul mayoral race in 2019, giving him control of Turkey's largest city. The CHP candidate, Ekrem mamo lu, won the seat twice after the AKP demanded a rerun of the vote when its candidate first lost.
For Erdo an this is about the risk of the opposition continuing to organise effectively with figures like Kaftanc O lu, who put together a masterful campaign to protect the vote and deny the AKP a repeat victory in 2019, said Soner Cagaptay, analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
It was the 100,000 volunteers assembled by Kaftanc o lu who observed the tally, compiled documents, took pictures and slept on top of ballot boxes so nothing could be rigged and mamo lu won. He said she shows a lot of organisational skills on her part. Kaftanc O lu had already begun a campaign to train observers before the general election.
The CHP was defiant after the ruling. If Canan Kaftanc O lu is banned, tens of thousands of Canans will be on duty during the elections at the poll stations, said a CHP member and retired diplomat, nal evik z.
Kaftanc o lu's conviction came after a recent ruling sentencing leftist philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison over accusations he supported anti-government protests in 2013, as well as a demand by prosecutors to silence a leading feminist group. I feel like Erdo is tightening the noose on the opposition's neck, said Cagaptay. It shows that the risk of letting the opposition flourish and organise outweighs the benefits of the investments he might get as a result of his charm offensive towards the west. A court in Istanbul is expected to rule on charges against mamo lu in early June. He is facing a ban on political activity and could be jailed over claims he insulted the election officials who cancelled his initial win in 2019. If convicted, the ruling would sideline one of the CHP's potential presidential candidates.