A Turkish court on Wednesday adjourned until November the trial of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a popular opponent of President Tayyip Erdogan, as police enforced tight security near the courthouse after a ban on protests to support him.
Imamoglu, who polls suggest would be a strong challenger to Erdogan if he were to run in next year’s national elections, is charged with insulting public officials in a speech he made about a re-run of the 2019 mayoral election that he won.
The case, which was adjourned till Nov. 11, could lead to a political ban for Imamoglu if he were found guilty.
All main roads to the courthouse, in the Kartal district on the Asian side of Istanbul, were sealed off by hundreds of police officers. Several hundred people gathered nearby to express support for Imamoglu, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“We came to support Mayor Ekrem. We came to seek justice in this country,” Istanbul municipality employee Kemal Ercan said.
“I think such massive security measures are taken to put psychological pressure on citizens,” he said, referring to the police presence.
The outcome of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023 is seen as dependent on the ability of the CHP and other opposition parties to join forces against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has governed the country for two decades.
Most analysts expect CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to win the nomination to be the presidential candidate of the opposition.
The district governor’s office said it had banned press statements and marches to protect public order, given that many people would show up to express support for Imamoglu, who swept to office as mayor in 2019 in a shock to Erdogan’s AKP.