Mayors of three eastern provinces dismissed by Interior Ministry

Mayors of three eastern provinces dismissed by Interior Ministry

Mayors of three eastern provinces dismissed by Interior Ministry

The Turkish Interior Ministry on Aug. 19 dismissed three mayors in eastern Turkey over what it called terror links.     

According to an official statement by the ministry, the mayors of the southeastern Diyarbakır and Mardin provinces and the eastern Van province — Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, Ahmet Türk, and Bedia Özgökçe Ertan — who were elected by overwhelming majorities in the March 31 local elections, have been suspended.

They are accused of various crimes, including “membership of a terrorist organization” and “spreading terrorist propaganda,” the statement said.

It added that the mayors already had active cases against them in which they were accused of crimes such as establishing or spreading propaganda for a terror group or just being members of it.

The ministry said the PKK “exerted heavy efforts to nominate candidates who would be easily led once they would be elected and would be under its guidance and orientation.”

“Once the metropolitan mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van provinces had taken their offices, it was highlighted that they exerted the so-called “co-mayor” practice upon the instructions of the leaders of the separatist terrorist organization,” said the statement.

All mayors are from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a party Turkey’s government has accused of having links to the PKK terror group. The state-appointed governors of the provinces will temporarily replace dismissed mayors.    

The HDP appoints two co-leaders to almost all its constituencies, requiring that one leader is a man and the other a woman. 

The mayors “intended to convert the municipalities into an administrative structure separate from the whole country, they de facto employed the former municipal employees, who had been removed from their offices due to their engagement, affiliation and relation with the terrorist organization,” said the statement.

Recalling ongoing separate investigations into and prosecutions on the mayors over alleged “terror links,” the statement said they have been suspended from their duties as an interim precaution for the safety of the judicial/administrative investigations/prosecutions.

The governor of Diyarbakır, Hasan Basri Güzeloğlu, has been appointed as acting metropolitan municipality mayor of Diyarbakır, Mardin Governor Mustafa Yaman as acting metropolitan municipality mayor of Mardin and Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez as acting metropolitan municipality mayor of Van.

“We are after the struggle for democracy. We will surely ask the account of what this power has done,” said the co-chair of the HDP, Sezai Temelli.

In his first statement, Güzeloğlu said the municipal resources were being used in favor of the PKK and added: “This is unacceptable and unsustainable.”

“The ballot boxes will lose its meaning” if the elected mayors are suspended and trustees replace them, said the spokesperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Faik Öztrak, at a press conference.

Ahead of the March elections, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said that the government will appoint trustees to the local municipalities they see as providing support to the PKK.

Ahead of the March local election, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said 178 election candidates were being investigated over alleged PKK links.

In the struggle for democracy, the Turkish state was bound to take action against municipalities that supported terrorism and their leaders, said Turkey's vice president on Aug. 19. 

“Judicial and administrative investigations determined that municipal funds [in three cities] were being used in favor of a bloody terrorist
the organization and necessary actions have been taken,” said Fuat Oktay on Twitter.

“The will of the nation can never be left under the hand of terror,” he added.

The government had previously replaced elected mayors with trustees on grounds that they allegedly aided and abetted PKK’s activities. The appointments were made predominantly in eastern and southeastern provinces’ municipalities run by the HDP.

In 2016, the Interior Ministry appointed trustees to 28 local municipalities across the country on accusations that they allegedly provided support to the PKK and FETÖ, widely believed to have staged the coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

In over 30 years of clashes between the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – and the Turkish state, more than 40,000 people have died.

More than 400 suspects detained in 29 provinces

Meanwhile, more than 400 people were detained in operations in 29 provinces across Turkey, including the southeastern and eastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Mardin, and Van, over alleged links to the outlawed PKK, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry announcement, made on Twitter, followed its earlier announcement that the mayors of the three major southeastern and eastern provinces had been replaced by state-appointed officials in terrorism-related investigations.

The ministry said the PKK had been seeking to exploit the March elections to boost its support and had exerted efforts to nominate candidates who would be easily led once elected.

Police detained 418 people in 29 provinces in a related investigation targeting suspects with links to the outlawed PKK, the ministry added.

Security forces launched a domestic operation against the PKK in the country’s east and southeast, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.         

The large scale offensive was launched in eastern Van province and southeastern Hakkari and Şırnak provinces on Aug. 18, the ministry said in a written statement. Some 130 teams of police, gendarmerie, and village guards joined the counter-terrorism operation, it added.     

A total of 43 caves and shelters used by PKK militants have been destroyed so far, read the statement, adding that the operation will resolutely continue “until all terrorists in the region are neutralized.” Turkish authorities often use the term “neutralize” in statements to imply the militants in question surrendered or were killed or captured.