Turkish authorities seize 32 HDP municipalities in 2019 - report

The Turkish government seized control of 32 municipalities and arrested some 4,500 people from the country’s main pro-Kurdish party last year, news site Diken cited a report by the party as saying.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) returned 97 mayors in the polls and regained many of the municipalities the central government took over after 2014 local elections.

But the HDP has faced the same treatment since August, when the authorities arrested three HDP mayors of large cities in the predominantly Kurdish eastern provinces on terrorism charges, imposing government appointees to take over their duties. The tally of arrested mayors has risen to 24 since then, and the authorities have taken control of 32 municipalities.

The government says the HDP has close links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which began an armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in 1984.

Many of the 4,567 HDP members the party says were arrested last year, and the 797 of these who were formally charged, are accused of supporting the PKK directly or by making propaganda for the group. Turkey, the United States and European Union list the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the HDP, has been in prison facing a list of charges including making terrorist propaganda and directing a terrorist organisation since his arrest in November 2016.

Despite his long detention and a spell of ill health last year, Demirtaş sent the public an optimistic new year’s message through a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party.

“It’s a new year and a new excitement in the struggle for democracy. Our demands for freedom and peace will come true in 2020,” the former HDP leader said. “We’re heading for better days. Keep fighting for them with courage and determination.”