Turkey removes three pro-Kurdish mayors over terrorism charges
The mayors of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin have been replaced with state-appointed governors after being accused of supporting the PKK
Turkey replaced three pro-Kurdish party mayors who were elected this year by cities in the country’s southeast on Monday over alleged terrorism charges.
The elected mayors of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin, all in the predominantly Kurdish part of Turkey, were relieved of their duties, with state-appointed governors temporarily taking over their posts, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.
“The mayors, who evidence shows are in contact with terrorist organisations and support terrorist organisations, have been removed from office,” the statement said, accusing the politicians of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
“The PKK … use municipalities for illegal purposes through some mayors,” it said.
There are fears that the move could escalate tensions in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country, where protests at the removals on Monday were met with water cannon.
Teams of officers conducted raids in 29 provinces across Turkey, arresting 418 people, according to the interior ministry.
The three mayors – Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli of Diyarbakir, Ahmet Turk of Mardin and Van’s Bedia Ozgokce Ertan – were accused of crimes that include membership of a terrorist organisation and spreading terrorist group propaganda. The statement also accuses them of changing street and park names to the names of terrorists and attending terrorists’ funerals.
They were elected to office in March for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan frequently accuses of links to the PKK. The HDP denies the accusation.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
In an official response, the HDP said the dismissals were part of a “political coup” and were based on “unlawful grounds”.
“Our municipal co-mayors, who were elected with 63 per cent of the vote in Diyarbakır, 56 per cent in Mardin and 53 per cent in Van, were dismissed with a warrant based on lies and unlawful grounds,” a statement in Turkish on its website said.
“This is a new and clear political coup. It is an open and hostile attitude towards the political will of the Kurdish people.
“We call upon all democratic forces, all citizens with conscience, all opposition parties ... non-governmental organisations, trade unions and democratic associations to come together in solidarity against a power that ... does not recognise the will of the polls and elections,” it said.
Ekrem Imamoglu, of the opposition Republican People’s Party, was elected as the mayor of Istanbul in the March elections, but the result was annulled on the insistence of Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.
He was elected again in June after a rerun.
Mr Imamoglu said on Twitter it was “impossible” to associate the removal of the mayors with democratic practices.
After a failed coup in 2016, dozens of HDP mayors in the southeast were dismissed in sweeping purges that it was claimed were intended to crackdown on terrorism. And after facing major defeats in March’s local elections, Mr Erdogan threatened to remove any of the winning HDP mayors who were deemed to be supporting the PKK while in office.
“If you happen to send the opportunities provided by the state to Qandil, we will once again, immediately and without waiting further appoint out trustees,” he said. Qandil in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan is where the PKK are based.
The Interior Ministry statement also claimed that thanks to the “intense struggle” of the state, participation in terrorist organisations has fallen to the lowest level in 30 years, restoring “peace and prosperity” to citizens.
The PKK launched an insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people – many of them PKK members – have been killed.
Updated: August 19, 2019 05:51 PM