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23 arrested for protesting overturning of Kurdish mayor’s election victory

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Turkish courts arrested 23 people among hundreds detained over protests that erupted across Turkey in response to a local electoral authority’s decision to annul the victory of a pro-Kurdish party candidate in eastern Turkey and hand the mayorship to the ruling party’s runner-up, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition reported on Saturday, citing a bar association.

Abdullah Zeydan, representing the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), had initially won the race for mayor of the eastern province of Van by a wide margin in local elections on Sunday.

He had garnered over 55 percent of the vote, but the regional electoral commission said he was ineligible to stand for election, handing city hall to a candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who received only 27 percent of the vote.

Their decision followed the last-minute reversal of a court verdict that had restored his right to run for office.

Zeydan, who had been elected on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) (now DEM) ticket in 2015, was arrested in 2016 after criticizing the Turkish army’s air campaign against outlawed Kurdish militants in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

After violent protests against his ouster erupted in Van province, which sits on Turkey’s eastern border with Iran, and spread across the country, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Wednesday approved an appeal made by the DEM Party to the decision that annulled Zeydan’s victory. With the approval of the appeal, the mandate to serve as Van’s mayor has been given to Zeydan.

The Van Bar Association said that of the 264 people it believes have been detained, 147 were released and 23 were arrested, while the rest are awaiting processing by law enforcement agencies.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on Thursday that Turkish police have detained 340 people over the protests.

The minister said the detainees are accused of engaging in illegal street protests, throwing rocks at law enforcement officers, chanting slogans praising a terrorist organization and disseminating terrorist organization propaganda on social media.

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