Jailed terror suspect promised release for denouncing CHP’s İmamoğlu – Sözcü

A man accused by Ankara of being a high-ranking member of a terrorist organisation has said Turkish officials, including government ministers, offered him a reprieve from jail in exchange for testimony against opposition mayoral candidates.

In his court testimony on Tuesday, Erkan Karaarslan said he had been offered the deal in the run-up to the March 31 local election.

He said he had been asked to make statements denouncing the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul mayoral candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, among others, opposition newspaper Sözcü reported.

Erkan Karaarslan is accused of heading the municipal operations of the Gülen movement, which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government blames for orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt. The movement was placed on Turkey’s list of terrorist organisations in May 2016.

Karaaslan said Turkish ministers had contacted both him and his family, asking for statements against opposition CHP mayors.

"I was told on March 14 that if I spoke about (CHP Aydın mayor) Özlem Çerçioğlu and Ekrem İmamoğlu, then I would be released that day, and otherwise I would be convicted,’’ Sözcu quoted Karaaslan as saying during a court appearance in the Western province of Aydın.

In a shock victory, İmamoğlu beat former AKP prime minister Binali Yıldırım on March 31, but the result has since been annulled after the ruling party launched an appeal alleging inconsistencies in the first vote. A rerun will be held on June 23.

Karaarslan, who was detained in January and placed in Ankara’s Sincan prison, is being tried on multiple charges.

His current trial involves 17 people, including CHP’s Aydın Mayor Çerçioğlu, who are accused of fraud in municipal tenders.

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