European Parliament condemns removal of Kurdish mayors

The European Parliament (EP) has denounced the replacement of democratically elected mayors of Diyarbakır, Van, and Mardin in south-east Turkey with government-appointed provincial governors or trustees, condemning some other recent right-violating situations in Turkey.

The mayors were removed on the grounds that they were under criminal investigation for alleged links to terrorism.

An EP-adopted resolution released on Thursday included notably the removal of the elected mayors; the continued arrest of a former leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the further threatening to remove elected mayors, and the politically motivated sentence of an opposition party member.

“The replacement of Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan by state governors is of serious concern as it calls into question respect for the democratic outcomes of the 31 March 2019 elections,”  the resolution stated.

The decision also touched on additional detainments of 418 civilians, mainly municipal council members and employees from 29 different provinces across Turkey, on “unsubstantiated allegations.”

On August 19, Turkey’s interior ministry removed three mayors from office.

The replacement came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned during rallies prior to the March 31 local election that candidates with links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would be ousted by his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state as well as the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), the PKK is an armed militant group that has launched an insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in 1984.

The resolution expressed EP’s concerns that further orders to remove elected officials were to follow.

On September 3, 2019, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu specifically threatened to replace Ekrem Imamoglu, the Istanbul mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The EP “strongly condemned the politically motivated sentence” of Canan Kaftancioglu, CHP’s Istanbul provincial head, demanding the immediate reversal of the sentence which is deemed punishment for her playing a key role in the successful campaign during the Istanbul mayoral election.

On September 6, 2019, Kaftancioglu was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insulting public officials, humiliating the state, inciting the people to enmity and hatred and using her social media channels to disseminate propaganda for a terrorist organization between 2012 and 2017.

The EP decision also condemned the continued arrest of former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas, calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on his case.

Demirtas has been held in the Edirne Type F Prison since his arrest in November 2016 on terror-related charges.

Although the ECtHR ordered the immediate release of Demirtas by urging Turkey to process his legal case swiftly in its November 20, 2018 ruling, a Turkish court rejected an appeal for his release saying that decision of the ECtHR had not been finalized.

The European Parliament urged the EU to suspend membership negotiations with Turkey due to democratic backsliding

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