EU Deeply Concerned over Turkish Authorities’ Dismissal of Mayors
The European Union is deeply concerned over the Turkish government’s crackdown on municipalities and the detention of dozens of mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) on terrorism-related charges.
On Friday, Turkish authorities removed and detained mayors of Igdir, Siirt, Baykan, Kurtalan, and Altinova as part of an investigation into terrorism cases launched by the public prosecutor of Siirt.
Ankara accuses HDP of being the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey. The party denies any terrorism allegations.
The spokesperson for EU’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, issued a statement warning that applying broad anti-terror or criminal legislation should not be politically motivated because it could undermine the correct path of local democracy.
The statement, which was reported by Turkish media, indicated that the Turkish government has a legitimate right to fight terrorism, however, it urged it to be responsible in ensuring this is done in accordance with the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, also called upon Turkish authorities to stop removing mayors from office without court decisions.
“Local councils should have at least the possibility to appoint an interim mayor among its elected members! Credibility on fundamentals of democracy is at stake,” tweeted Amor.
The government dismissed and arrested in November 41 elected mayors of the party, and later it arrested another eight mayors.
Since 2016, the Turkish authorities have removed mayors in the predominantly Kurdish regions on terrorism-related charges.
Before the local elections in March 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to remove the HDP mayors who might win the elections.
After the elections, authorities dismissed over 50 mayors who won the polls and arrested hundreds of local politicians and elected officials and thousands of members of the Democratic Party on terrorism cases.
The government then replaced the mayors with guardians of the municipalities who are members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
After the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, the government closed most of the Kurdish media outlets and all Kurdish civil society organizations on charges of supporting terrorist organizations.
The government blames the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the failed coup, which Gulen denies.
Authorities have fired thousands of Kurdish teachers and doctors, and arrested over 10,000 persons, including parliamentarians and HDP’s co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.