VOA’s Turkish Service contributed to this report.
The leading figure from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is facing almost 10 years in prison on terror charges.
Canan Kaftancioglu, 47, was sentenced Friday to nine years, eight months and 20 days in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, insulting the state, insulting the president, insulting public officials and provoking public enmity, according to the 37th High Criminal Court in Istanbul.
She is the CHP’s Istanbul provincial branch leader and played a key role in the opposition party’s victory in the June Istanbul municipal election over the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Social media posts
The charges against Kaftancioglu were raised based on several social media posts she made over the course of several years. They included tweets criticizing the government’s crackdown on 2013 Gezi Park protests and the killings of three Kurdish women activists affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Paris that same year.
The opposition leader in a public appearance rejected the charges as politically motivated by the government to target the opposition. Kaftancioglu said she would appeal the sentence, for which she had not yet been arrested.
“We will not stop until the palace’s tutelage ends,” she said in the public speech in front of the court in Istanbul shortly after the sentencing, referring to the presidential palace housing Erdogan.
“No matter what it costs, we will not back off. For these reasons, it was a trial to punish a provincial head who aimed to give Istanbul to its people, and in fact, it was a trial to punish people,” she said in front of a large crowd of supporters.
Istanbul is home to more than 18 million people as Turkey’s largest city, with revenues that account for one-third of the country’s economy. The city’s status as an economic powerhouse has made it a contentious center of competition between the ruling AKP and the opposition.
The AKP in both March elections and June rerun elections suffered a stunning defeat in Istanbul, ending 25 years of domination by Erdogan, when CHP’s mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, won for the second time.
Kaftancioglu’s role as the progressive face of the CHP was seen as decisive in securing the victory for the party.
After the court ruling on Friday afternoon, Imamoglu expressed his concerns about the verdict. He said he was convinced the conviction could be overturned on appeal.
“Despite everything, Turkey has judges who will make the right decision on this issue. I believe they will make the right call,” Imamoglu said.
Freedom of judicial system
The court ruling followed serious debate among Turkey’s political parties and activists, with talks centered on the freedom of the judicial system in the country.
Mahmut Tanal, the CHP’s lawmaker for Istanbul, said in an interview with VOA that the court’s decision about Kaftancioglu reflected the implementation of the “enemy criminal law.”
“The court ruled according to the political identity of the people. When entering the courtroom, the defendant’s lawyers and visitors entered from the same door. However, the judges and the plaintiffs’ lawyers entered from the same door,” Tanal told VOA.
Erdogan was one of the plaintiffs in the case.
“Justice is not just a court order. Behavior towards the plaintiffs, defendants and their lawyers at the entrance is also an indicator,” he added.
The ruling AKP, however, praised the conviction as reflecting the freedom of the judicial system in the country.
“She has no impunity; everyone is equal before the law,” said AKP Deputy Chairman Mehmet Mus. “Her social media posts are beyond political criticism.”
Under the Turkish judicial system, Kaftancioglu has the right to appeal the court ruling in a standard appeals court. She can make a second appeal in the Supreme Court of Cassation.