Top Turkish court demands Kurdish mayor’s prison sentence finalised

Turkey’s Court of Cassation Chief Prosecutor has demanded that an appeal by a former Kurdish mayor of southeastern Diyarbakır province be rejected and the prison sentence issued him finalised, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Friday.

Selçuk Mızraklı, a medical doctor and former mayor of Turkey’s largest majority-Kurdish province, was removed from office by the Interior Ministry in August 2019 and arrested on terrorism charges soon after over alleged membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy on Turkish soil since the 1980s.

A Diyarbakır court sentenced Mızraklı to nine years, four months and 15 days in prison in July, and his lawyers have appealed the ruling.

The Chief Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation moved to reject the appeal, on the grounds that legal conditions for an appeal had not been met. The prosecutor also demanded that the prison sentence be finalised, citing elements of a just trial being present at Mızraklı’s proceedings.

Mızraklı’s lawyers had argued that the evidence present in the file had been unlawfully gathered and were not sufficient to warrant a conviction.

“The prosecutor’s demand to finalise Selçuk Mızraklı’s sentence is a massacre of the law,” Ümit Dede, Deputy Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said in a statement on Saturday.

The charges were fabricated and based on the irregular testimony of one informant, Dede said. “The government uses enemy laws against Kurds and its opponents.”

Meanwhile on Friday, a lower administrative court in Diyarbakır rejected Mızraklı’s appeal to overturn his dismissal as mayor, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Mızraklı argued in his appeal that any investigations against his person had not been related to his duties as mayor, and thus his dismissal had been in violation of the presumption of innocence and personal privacy.

The court ruled that, according to the Interior Ministry’s bylaws on the matter, the presence of investigations was sufficient grounds for dismissal, “in favour of public good”.

The charges brought against Mızraklı were “not compatible with the character of the public office (he) held”, the court said.

The Interior Ministry has removed mayors from at least 51 municipalities out of the 65 that the HDP won in the 2019 local elections and replaced them with government appointees. Almost all of the dismissed mayors, along with municipal council members, are currently facing terrorism charges. In the previous term, 96 out of 102 municipalities won by HDP’s sister Democratic Regions Party (DBP) had shared the same fate.

Mızraklı and several other dismissed mayors have taken the matter to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), saying their right, and those of their electorates, to free elections has been violated.