Turkish police arrest lawyers protesting replacement of Kurdish mayors

Twenty-six lawyers and a journalist were attacked and detained by police in the western province of Izmir while demonstrating against the appointment of trustees as mayors in three predominantly Kurdish populated southeastern cities, online news portal Bianet reported on Thursday.

The detained protesters were later released following health checks at the Yesilyurt State Hospital.

A group of lawyers from the shut-down Contemporary Lawyers Association (CHD) and Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD), including a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), gathered in front of Izmir Courthouse in a bid to protest the recent replacement of three Kurdish mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces with state officials.

Police surrounding the lawyers with shields told the group that they would not be allowed to make a press statement on the grounds of a 10-day ban on demonstrations imposed by the Izmir Governors’ Office.

The lawyers, who objected to the ban and police resistance were battered, dispersed and detained, with the HDP lawmaker Erol Katircioglu being separated from the group.

Zafer Incin, the Izmir chair of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) and journalist Oktay Ince were also among the detained ones.

The Izmir Bar Association staged a press conference together with the released lawyers, condemning the dismissal of the Kurdish mayors and the police intervention.

“The appointment of governmental trustees is a [civilian] coup conducted against democracy,” the Izmir Bar Chair Ozkan Yucel said.

On Monday the mayors of southeastern Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces – Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan respectively – were replaced by interim officials appointed by the Turkish interior ministry over suspected terror links.

Critics have come out guns blazing, protesting against the move by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as more than 400 people were also detained as part of the same terror investigation.

Since then, a number of protests were staged against the dismissal of the Kurdish mayors across Turkey, with almost all of them facing harsh police intervention.

The HDP’s 90 mayors had also been removed from their posts in the aftermath of a failed coup bid that targeted the AKP on July 15, 2016, due to similar terror-related charges.

Further, Erdogan had vowed to do the same just before the 31 March mayoral elections, if the state would suspect any candidate with links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist-designated armed militant group which has waged an insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s.

Most of the HDP mayors won their posts back in the March polls.

Suspension of mayors seriously risk damaging Turkey’s democracy – EU

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