Canan Kaftancıoğlu, head of the İstanbul branch of Turkey’s main opposition party, has been sent to the notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul to serve a five-year sentence on a terrorism conviction, Turkish media outlets reported.
She was accompanied by a group of Republican People’s Party (CHP) members as she arrived at the İstanbul Courthouse on Tuesday from where she was taken to Silivri Prison on the outskirts of İstanbul where most political prisoners are jailed.
“Today is the anniversary of Gezi. Long live the Gezi resistance,” she told reporters in front of the courthouse, referring to anti-government protests in the summer of 2013 against the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plans to demolish Gezi Park in the in İstanbul.
As part of an ongoing crackdown on government critics ahead of 2023’s presidential polls, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on May 12 upheld a prison sentence of four years, 11 months and 20 days handed down to Kaftancıoğlu.
In 2019 the politician was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on a range of charges including “terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The charges related mostly to tweets Kaftancıoğlu posted between 2012 and 2017. She had been free pending appeal.
The CHP is the second largest party in the Turkish parliament, holding 135 seats.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, speaking at a meeting of his party on Tuesday, said Kaftancıoğlu is in high spirits because she is well aware that she is not being jailed for having committed a crime but because of political motivations.
“We don’t recognize any of their politically motivated rulings. No matter what they say, we are clear in our stance. We will never make any concessions no matter what they do,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.
Kaftancıoğlu, a doctor by profession, played a key role in the shock victory of the CHP’s İstanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu in 2019 — the first time Erdoğan’s party had lost power in Turkey’s biggest city for 25 years.
Rights groups regularly accuse Erdoğan of using the judiciary as a political tool, particularly after thousands of judges were purged in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016.
Erdoğan railed against Kaftancıoğlu after she was appointed to the İstanbul chair in 2016.
Among the tweets used by the prosecution against Kaftancıoğlu was one in which she criticized the death of a 14-year-old boy hit by a tear gas canister during the Gezi Park protests.