Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Turkey jails Kurdish ex-mayor for nine years for 'terrorism' links

Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli is one of 31 pro-Kurdish mayors removed from office last year

Former Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli introduces pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Saliha Akdeniz and  Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu in 2019. Reuters
Former Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli introduces pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Saliha Akdeniz and  Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu in 2019. Reuters

A Turkish court sentenced the ex-mayor of a major Kurdish city to more than nine years in prison after convicting him of "membership in an armed terror group".

Turkish authorities removed 31 mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) last year over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), only months after they won local elections in March.

Critics say the suspensions were aimed at removing political opposition to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party in the country's south-east after poor election results.

Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli was mayor of Diyarbakir until he was suspended in August along with the mayors of Mardin and Van.

All were replaced by government-appointed trustees. Mizrakli has been in custody since his arrest in October last year.

On Monday, the court in Diyarbakir convicted Mizrakli, who refused to attend the hearing, "of membership in an armed terror group", the Anadolu state news agency reported.

Prosecutors said he had attended the funerals of PKK militants and meetings that were used for the group's propaganda.

Mizrakli was sentenced to nine years, four months and 15 days in prison, Anadolu said.

Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch said Mizrakli's conviction came after only three hearings and "with no effort to probe evidence or to conceal the blatant political motivation behind this trial".

"The government didn't like the mayor chosen by 63 per cent of the Diyarbakir electorate, so they arbitrarily removed him and jailed him," she said.

In a statement released by his party, Mizrakli said the verdict was politically motivated.

"This is a verdict ... which has become a political tool," he said. "I do not respect it."

The government has repeatedly claimed the HDP has links to the PKK, which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

The HDP says it has no official connection to the PKK but has tried to broker peace talks between the insurgents and government.

On its Twitter account, the HDP said Mizrakli was convicted on "false 'terror' charges".

"Though he won office with a landslide 63 per cent of the vote, he was illegally removed in August, like dozens of other HDP mayors have been," the party said.

Updated: March 10, 2020 12:46 PM

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