Turkey arrests four more Kurdish politicians
Following the arrest of 19 Kurdish and pro-Kurdish politicians on Thursday, four more Kurdish politicians were arrested on Friday in southeastern Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır province, Mezopotamya agency reported.
Two of the newly-arrested politicians, Edip Binbir and Çiğdem Ekti, were from the Diyarbakır chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), while Mekiye Güzel worked at MEBYA-DER, an association for the families of persons who lost family members in the Kurdish conflict, and Emin Ay at the Democratic Islam Congress (DİK).
Seven others from HDP and several worker’s unions were released on probation, while HDP’s Sur district council member Ömer Filitoğlu’s detention was prolonged until Monday.
Mayor of Kars arrested, replaced with gov’t appointee
Mayor of the eastern Kars province Ayhan Bilgen, who resigned from parliament to run for mayor and won his seat last year from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) following a highly-contested series of recounts, was arrested on Friday, after which the Turkish Interior Ministry removed him from office and appointed the province’s governor as his replacement, daily Evrensel reported.
Bilgen was the last provincial mayor who still held his seat after the Interior Ministry started to dismiss mayors upon terrorism charges without convictions shortly after the 2019 elections. At least 59 of the 65 municipalities HDP won have been replaced with government appointed proxies to date.
Bilgen’s co-mayor Şevin Alaca, who was officially a member of the city council, was also arrested after Bilgen announced his resignation.
Bilgen had wanted to force a re-election from among city council members and avoid a government appointee, a pool which would have included Alaca, and several other council members who were either arrested or dismissed.
Kars governor prays on street after appointment as mayor
Kars Governor Türker Öksüz held Friday prayers in front of the municipality building after he was appointed to replace the province’s dismissed and arrested mayor Ayhan Bilgen.
“The Kars Municipality has been usurped by the palace,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Izmir Deputy Murat Çepni said in a tweet. “And this is a prayer of conquest.”
HDP Diyarbakır Deputy Dersim Dağ called the prayer “an image of occupation, religious abuse, and usurpation of the people’s will.”
HDP Spokeswoman Ebru Günay said: “We know (the arrest decisions) are not made in courthouses. Sycophant media had been writing the indictment and putting on arrest negotiations for days. These arrests have targeted the colorful and pluralistic structure that is the HDP.”
Several HDP deputies started a sit-in in front of the municipality, while police did not allow supporters of the party to join in.
Turkish opposition condemns dismissal of HDP mayor
Following the mass arrest of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) politicians and dismissal of the mayor of Kars, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Group Chairman Özgür Özel tweeted out a condemnation of the arrests.
“They reopened the Kobani case six years later, and spewed out fear for the opposition and hate towards Kurds,” Özel said. “They arrested Ayhan Bilgen in spite of the Constitutional Court ruling, and appointed a replacement to the will of Kars where they failed to win at the ballot.”
CHP Deputy Chairman Oğuz Kaan Salıcı said, “When Turkey’s political history is told, these days will be referred to as ‘the squirming of the one-man regime in its period of collapse’! The arrest of HDP members is entirely political. Whatever you do, you will be gone by the first ballot!”
The Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), founded by former minister Ali Babacan, issued a statement calling the replacement mayor appointed to Kars “a coup against democracy.”
Replacing elected mayors with government appointees has “turned into a government routine,” DEVA said in the statement, calling the current situation in Turkey “a bottleneck of democracy that our country has been in for a long time.”
The case against dismissed mayor Bilgen was the same one that the Constitutional Court ruled to be a violation of his rights, it continued. “All appointments of government proxies violate the Constitution and international treaties,” it said.
The DEVA statement also stressed that the Kars city council should have been able to elect another mayor from among itself.
“We would like to remind everyone of a very fundamental piece of information on democracy: Respecting elections and election results is among the most fundamental, indispensable element of democracies.”