ANKARA: Five Turkish mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the southeast of the country were on Monday detained on suspicion of having links to terrorism.
Civic leaders of HDP-run Batman municipality and municipalities in Diyarbakir’s Ergani, Lice, Silvan and Egil districts were held as part of a police anti-terror probe, with the Turkish Ministry of the Interior appointing trustees to their offices.
The municipality of Batman had been recently praised for its measures to deal with the COVID-19 disease, which included postponing water bill payments.
Erkan Senses, a human rights lawyer, said: “A trustee is appointed to my hometown of Batman. The votes of 120,000 citizens were just ignored by a single signature of an appointed minister.
“I call on the government to respect an elected authority and stop appointing trustees. There is an urgent need to hold a re-election in the municipalities where trustees were appointed.”
During 2019, more than 20 mayors, all from the HDP, were removed from their posts by Turkish authorities over their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Among them, the mayors of Mardin, Van and Diyarbakir, all key Kurdish cities, were replaced by government-appointed trustees.
Last year’s move against the officials came just after the mayors had won local elections in March, sparking criticism about the political motivations behind it and whether they intended to cancel the results of the local elections in the region. The HDP won 65 municipalities in east and southeastern Turkey in the March ballots.
Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, former mayor of Diyarbakir province, recently received a nine-year jail sentence on charges related to terrorism.
In February, the Turkish Ministry of the Interior also suspended Vefa Salman, the main opposition mayor of Yalova in northwestern Turkey, over accusations of fraud and corruption.