Ankara to appoint ‘trustees’ to municipalities in southeast Turkey

Ankara to appoint ‘trustees’ to municipalities in southeast Turkey

Nuray Babacan - ANKARA
Ankara to appoint ‘trustees’ to municipalities in southeast Turkey

AA Photo

The Turkish government is working on a new legal arrangement paving the way for the transfer of authorities from local mayors to “trustees” if crimes related to terrorism are committed by the former.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is drafting the arrangement separately from a planned local governance reform. In line with the plans, new penalties will be introduced for mayors who let militants use municipality vehicles and who prevent the use of emergence aid vehicles.

“Our situation with these municipalities is the same as the situation of a captain facing crew members drilling holes into his ship,” said Mehmet Özhaseki, the AKP’s deputy chair in charge of local governance. 

Both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government accuse municipalities in southeastern Anatolia of acting as “logistical centers” for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), using public resources to dig ditches and build barricades against security forces. 

Not all Turkey’s 1,400 municipalities should be punished for mistakes made by a few, Özhaseki said, stating that only municipalities held by the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were engaged in such activities.

“This is exactly what the HDP municipalities have been doing. Instead of caring for the future of all passengers and helping them reach land, they are helping those working to sink the ship,” he added.

In early January, 10 mayors from the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the sister party of the HDP, were suspended and detained, while 106 municipalities under the DBP were subject to investigations on charges related to “supporting autonomy,” “maintaining a co-chair structure,” and “terrorism.”

Eight mayors were separately suspended, while one was released on probation and another remains under house arrest. 

Mayors have been detained on charges of “disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state,” “membership of a terrorist organization and making terrorist propaganda,” “acting as a human shield” and “providing logistical support to a terrorist organization.”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently vowed a tough response to municipalities in the southeast for acting as “logistical centers” for the PKK. 

“The administrators of these municipalities, some of whom are working like logistical centers for the terrorist organization [PKK], will definitely pay the price for all this treason,” Davutoğlu said.

Violence in the three-decade-old conflict between Turkish security forces and militants of the PKK flared last July after the collapse of peace talks. Locals in several southeastern areas subsequently erected barricades in an effort to prevent the entry of security forces, who they accuse of committing rights abuses.