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Turkish police detain 5 Kurdish politicians

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Turkish police detained five Kurdish politicians — former mayors and their deputies from the Ergani district of Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır city — on Saturday, in the latest episode of an ongoing crackdown on Kurdish politicians in the country, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The detentions occurred during early morning raids across Diyarbakır and its districts. The detainees include Ahmet Kaya, a former co-mayor of Ergani, along with former co-mayor Ramazan Kartalmış and deputy mayors Gülistan Polat, Esveri Malkoç and Cavidan Yaman.

The detentions are part of an investigation dating back to 2023, Mezopotamya said, without giving further details.

Authorities have imposed a 24-hour restriction on the detainees’ communications, preventing them from consulting with their legal representatives during this period.

This comes after the interior ministry announced on Monday the removal of former Hakkari co-mayor Mehmet Sıddık Akış of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) from office due to an ongoing investigation and a separate trial on terrorism-linked charges.

He was replaced by Hakkari Governor Ali Çelik. The ministry’s move attracted widespread criticism and protests for being “anti-democratic” and “hijacking” the will of the Kurdish people.

DEM Party Co-chairperson Tülay Hatimoğulları, who has been in Hakkari for several days to participate in demonstrations protesting Akış’s removal, and the party’s other co-chairperson, Tuncay Bakırhan, met with representatives from civil society organizations in Hakkari on Thursday.

Hatimoğulları said at the meeting that Turkey should immediately hold early elections because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have lost their legitimacy, resorting to illegitimate measures to stay in power.

She said the results of the March 31 local elections in which the AKP sustained its worst election defeat since its establishment in 2002 and the MHP lost significant public support made clear that they no longer have legitimacy.

The March 31 elections produced surprising results for the AKP, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) emerging as the country’s leading party for the first time in decades, receiving 37.7 percent of the vote. The AKP’s nationwide support, however, stood at 35.4 percent, while the MHP garnered 4.9 percent.

Hatimoğulları accused the AKP and the MHP of taking political revenge for their election loss on the DEM Party by removing its democratically elected mayor.

Akış, the first mayor ousted from office since the March 31 local elections when the DEM Party won a dozen provincial municipalities in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, was also handed down a prison sentence of 19 years, six months at the 61st hearing of his trial on Wednesday.

The last time Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections was May 2023. The next elections are scheduled for 2028.

Turkey became acquainted with the removal of democratically elected Kurdish mayors from office on terrorism accusations after the local elections in 2016 and 2019.

There were hopes that the government would not resort to such a step this time, given the significant public support afforded DEM Party mayors in the country’s southeast in the local elections.

As a result, the removal of Akış came as a disappointment to many, leading to protests and calls on the government from various segments of society to end the controversial practice and respect the will of the Kurdish people.

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