The Turkish Ministry of Interior has announced in a statement that 41 former mayors who were removed from office and replaced by government-appointed trustees between July 2016 and March 2019 have thus far received close to 260 years in prison on terrorism-related charges, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.
According to the statement, out of 94 mayors who were removed from office, 41 have been handed down sentences. Appeals are in progress for 33 of them.
The terrorism-related cases of 52 others are still being heard by courts of first instance, while one was acquitted.
Of the 94 mayors from Kurdish parties 20 are being tried while under arrest. Seven are on probation and eight are sought by the police.
The mayors, many of whom were from the ranks of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had assumed office after the 2014 local elections and were ultimately removed by the Interior Ministry as part of a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement launched by the government in the aftermath of an attempted military coup in 2016.
Their removal was based on alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the 1980s.
The government and the pro-government media repeatedly voiced allegations that the Kurdish party mayors had been transferring municipal funds to the PKK and allowing the militant group to use vehicles that belonged to municipalities.
The practice of installing trustees was implemented once again after this year’s local elections, with the Interior Ministry removing three elected mayors in Van, Mardin and Diyarbakır in August despite the fact that the country’s supreme election authority did not block their candidacy prior to the polls.