Former mayor in Turkey given 10-year sentence

The former joint mayor of Turkey’s southeastern city of Siirt has been given 10 years in prison on terrorism-related offences, left-wing website said.

Tuncer Bakırhan, a former head of closed pro-Kurdish party DEHAP, was mayor for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), was arrested on December 16, 2016 and had his mayoral position rescinded by the Interior Ministry the next day. Since that time, the city has been directly ruled by the central government.

He was charged with being a member of a banned terrorist organisation (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK), 18 counts of making propaganda for a banned terrorist organisation, and two counts of organising illegal meetings, demonstrations or marches, and faced up to 111 years in prison.

He insisted on his innocence and pointed to his long political career as evidence that he was not connected to terror.

The court gave him 8 years and 9 months for membership of a banned terrorist organisation and 1 year, 3 months and 15 days for making propaganda for a banned terrorist organisation.

Bakırhan’s lawyer Mesut Beştaş said that the charges were based on ordinary actions taking by his client as part of his mayoral duties and that the court had not bothered to research the police’s accounts of them before accepting those accounts as true.

As all applications made for the court to research what had really happened had been rejected, Beştaş said, it was clear that the decision was purely political.