Dismissal of pro-Kurdish mayors cripples democracy, Babacan says

Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister from Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) who founded a rival party in March, said on Saturday that the dismissal of pro-Kurdish party mayors severely violates right to elect and be elected, T24 reported.

"The government has appointed trustees to 48 municipalities so far. The people's will, the right to vote and be elected are unfortunately trampled on at the moment," Babacan said during a speech at his DEVA party's congress in majority Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

Some 48 pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) mayors have been dismissed, while the party’s most prominent figures, such as former co-chair and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, have been thrown in jail on terror charges and about a third of all party members have been detained. 

The government has accused the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), but human rights groups say the government uses vague and spurious allegations of terrorism in order to remove or imprison democratically elected HDP mayors. 

On Sept. 25, Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 82 people and arrested 20, including a mayor and several former lawmakers from the HDP, who are accused of involvement in October 2014 protests in Turkey, sparked by the seizure of the mainly Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobane by Islamic State fighters.

"It is not possible for anyone who defends the rule of law to object to the investigation of the violent incidents of 2014. However, the files in the judiciary cannot be used as a material for pressure and blackmail that the rulers of the country will use when it comes to their disposal," Babacan said.

Decades of attempting to solve the Kurdish issue with denial and repression have led Turkey to a dead end, Babacan added.

A promise of ‘zero tolerance’ towards torture proclaimed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP in late 2002, alongside the implementation of relevant laws and regulations banning the practice, brought about high hopes for an end to these horrific acts, he said.

However, since the collapse of the PKK peace process in 2015, and especially in the recent years reports of torture have mounted, he added.