Five mayors from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested on Monday several media outlets reported.
The pro-government Daily Sabah reported that Batman Mayor Mehmet Demir, Diyarbakır’s Silvan District Mayor Naside Toprak, Ergani District Mayor Ahmet Kaya, Lice Mayor Tarik Mercan and Egil District Mayor Mustafa Akkul were detained as part of an anti-terror investigation early on Monday.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar said security forces had besieged the buildings in the southeastern province of Batman as well as those in the Diyarbakir provincial districts of Egil, Silvan, Lice, and Ergani.
“As the whole world searches for a method to fight COVID-19, Erdogan’s government is seeking something completely different,” he said, adding that the respective municipal buildings had been “blockaded” from the early hours of Monday morning.
He accused the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being opportunistic.
“It is trying to use the Corona epidemic as an opportunity to consolidate its power. Neither the people of this country nor humanity as a whole will forget how the AKP is now trying to take advantage of this global threat,” he said.
Referring to the raids Batman mayor Demir himself states on Twitter that: “There is a lot more to do for the people of Batman. Today, Batman Municipality has been converted into a police station.”
— Dr.Mehmet DEMİR (@DrMehmetDemir1) March 23, 2020
The Reuters news agency reported that the Interior Ministry said in a statement that four mayors had been detained, and there was an arrest warrant for a fifth, while the other three were under investigation. All eight of them were accused of being members of a terrorist group.
Erdogan and his government accuse the HDP of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group – an accusation the HDP strenuously denies.
Turkey, the US, and the European Union have designated the PKK a terror group. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the PKK insurgency since it took up arms in 1984.
Ankara had previously appointed trustees to 31 municipalities won by the HDP in March 2019 local elections, an HDP source told Reuters, adding 21 co-mayors had been formally arrested so far, aside from those detained on Monday.
The former co-leaders of the HDP have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over alleged links to the PKK.