ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Friday detained four more elected mayors from Turkey’s mainly Kurdish populated east and southeast regions, as the government pressed ahead with its crackdown on a pro-Kurdish party it accuses of links to Kurdish militants.
The mayors from the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, were detained at their homes, removed from office and replaced with government-appointed trustees, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. A fifth mayor was also fired, but hasn’t been detained.
The government accuses the party of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The HDP denies the accusation.
The HDP denounced the crackdown on the elected mayors as a government “coup.”
“This amounts to the rejection of democracy, this amounts to the non-recognition of the will of the people,” party co-chairman Mithat Sancar said.
The Kurdish people won’t yield to pressure and will fight for their democratic rights, Sancar said at a news conference.
The four mayors were elected to office in local elections last year in the cities of Igdir and Siirt as well as in Siirt’s districts of Baykan and Kurtalan and the district of Altinova in Mus province.
HDP says the government has appointed caretaker mayors to 45 out of a total of 65 municipalities that the party won in local elections in March 2019. At least 21 mayors have been imprisoned on terror-related charges.
Seven former HDP lawmakers, including former chairman Selahattin Demirtas, are also in prison.
Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, called on Ankara to stop removing the elected officials without court decisions.
“Local councils should have at least the possibility to appoint an interim mayor among its elected members!” he tweeted. “Credibility on fundamentals of democracy is at stake.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized Turkey’s crackdown against the mayors, saying it amounts to a violation of voters’ rights.
The PKK is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Meanwhile, authorities detained 38 people for questioning over an attack Thursday that killed two workers who were distributing aid to people in a district in eastern Turkey. The district has been placed under quarantine because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Turkish officials have blamed the attack on the PKK.