Turkey arrests four Kurdish mayors on terrorism charges

Four pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors in southeast Turkey have been arrested as part of a terrorism investigation, Anadolu news agency said. 

Berivan Helen Işık, the mayor of the southeastern Siirt province, and her deputy mayor Peymandara Turhan were taken into custody on the orders of the Siirt Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, as were mayors Baran Akgül, and Ramazan Sarsılmaz of the Kurtalan and Baykan districts.

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. 

“When it comes to the HDP, just slapping trumped-up terror charges is the easiest way to go and it's just a political attempt to destroy their legitimacy," Turkey director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Emma Sinclair-Webb told AFP in April.

She said that the government's aim was to "collapse any distinction between the HDP, a legal party playing by the rules of the game in parliament and democratically-elected representatives from this party, and an armed organisation.”

It was reported in April that a total of 40 out of 65 municipalities won by the HDP were under the control of government-appointed trustees, including in major cities in the Kurdish-majority region such as Diyarbakır and Van. 

Ankara previously removed 95 HDP mayors after the party won 102 municipalities in 2014.

A 2018 report showed that almost one third of the HDP’s members had been detained since a peace process between Turkey and the PKK collapsed in 2015, and thousands of HDP members remain in prisons - making up a significant portion of Turkey’s 50,000 prisoners who face terrorism charges, according to HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.