Turkey replaces three pro-Kurdish party mayors for suspected militant links

A woman speaks on the phone as police surround Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) supporter sitting to demonstrate in solidarity with Kurdish prisoners on a hunger strike in Diyarbakir on May 24, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2019

Turkey replaces three pro-Kurdish party mayors for suspected militant links

  • The mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, major cities in the mainly Kurdish southeast, were accused of various crimes
  • The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that police detained 418 people in 29 provinces in an investigation targeting suspects with links to the PKK

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkey replaced pro-Kurdish party mayors with state officials in three southeastern cities and detained more than 400 people for suspected militant links on Monday, the Interior Ministry said, in a move likely to fuel tensions in Turkey’s southeast.
Ahead of nationwide local elections in March, President Tayyip Erdogan had warned of such a move against elected officials if they were found to have connections to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, major cities in the mainly Kurdish southeast, were accused of various crimes including membership of a terrorist organization and spreading terrorist group propaganda, the ministry statement said.
“For the health of the investigations, they have been temporarily removed from their posts as a precaution,” it said, referring to Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk and Van Mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan.
CNN Turk showed police sealing off the municipality headquarters in Diyarbakir with metal barriers, with water cannon vehicles and riot police deployed outside.
The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that police detained 418 people in 29 provinces in an investigation targeting suspects with links to the PKK militant group.
The removal of the mayors echoed the dismissal of dozens of mayors in 2016 over similar accusations, part of a purge that began after a failed coup. Nearly 100 mayors and thousands of party members were jailed in a crackdown that drew expressions of concern from the United States and European Union.
Ahead of the March election Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 178 current election candidates were being investigated over alleged PKK links.
Erdogan at the time warned that pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors could again be dismissed if they, like their predecessors, are deemed to have ties to militants.
Erdogan frequently accuses the HDP of links to the PKK, which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States. The HDP denies such links.
The PKK launched an insurgency in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

Updated 21 min 43 sec ago

Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

BEIRUT: The US Navy destroyer USS Ramage docked at the port of Beirut for 24 hours as a “security reminder,” according to Elizabeth Richard, the US ambassador to Lebanon.

“The US Navy is not far away, and Our ships were often near the Mediterranean, and will remain so,” the American envoy said.

Ricard and Vice Admiral James J. Malloy – the commander of the 5th Fleet – whose area of responsibility includes the waters of Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, hosted ‘an on-board reception for US and Lebanese officials.’

USS Ramage is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, named after Vice Admiral Lawson P. Ramage, a notable submarine commander and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. The ship specializes in destroying guided missiles launched from warships, aside from providing multiple offensive and defensive tasks.

Richard assured that “the security and stability in the East Mediterranean are of utmost importance to the United States and to Lebanon as well, and with regards to the issue of oil derivatives that concerns more than one state in the region, we hope that Lebanon joins in, as the issue of maritime security will soon acquire more importance.”

She assured that: “the presence of the USA in these waters is of common interest, and the presence of the American destroyer in Lebanon is a political message.”

Richard also said that partnership with Lebanon was not limited to military cooperation, and that the USA is “committed to help the Lebanese people through this period of economic hardship, and to supporting the Lebanese institutions that defend Lebanese sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Admiral Malloy said during the reception that “our military relations with Lebanon transcends the issue of military hardware, and the Lebanese armed forces have set plans to improve its naval capabilities, and the USA will continue playing the primary role in supporting these efforts.”

Built in 1993, the USS Ramage was put into active service in 1995 with a crew of almost 300 officers and enlisted personnel. It is 154 meters long and 20 meters and could reach a top speed of 30 knots, or 56 kilometers per hour.