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Turkey jails ousted pro-Kurdish mayor for nearly 20 years

Wednesday, 5 June, 2024 , 21:10

Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 5, 2024 (AFP) — A court in Turkey Wednesday jailed a pro-Kurdish mayor for 19 and a half years for "terrorism", his lawyer said, a ruling denounced as a "coup d'etat" by his party.

Mehmet Siddik Akis was removed from his post and placed in detention just two days earlier, prompting protests and brawls in Turkey's parliament.

Akis denounced it as a "political trial".

"I'm 53 years old, I've been fighting for all these years and I'll continue to fight," he said.

Tulay Hatimogullari, co-president of his party, the DEM, said in a statement: "The presidency and the judiciary have now declared war on the entire people."

The ruling AKP party was carrying out a "coup d'etat in broad daylight", she added.

Akis served as mayor of the southeastern town of Hakkari for the DEM, which the authorities accuse of links to the outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.

Akis and the party have denied any such links.

Following his conviction scuffles broke out in the town, footage posted on social media showed.

Reacting to Wednesday's sentencing, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the AKP, said: "The courts have decided according to the law.

"There is no point attacking left and right with placards in your hand," he added, referring to Tuesday's clashes in parliament.

"If anyone is involved in illegal activities, the law must be imposed. Hakkari was a first step in that direction."

- Protests banned -

On Monday, the governor of the province of Hakkari had banned any demonstrations until June 12.

The governor of the mainly Kurdish province of Bingol issued a similar seven-day ban on Wednesday.

Hatimogullari, who had travelled to Hakkari to hear the judgement, said soldiers had been deployed to prevent anyone from protesting.

"Even our co-presidents and deputies were prevented from marching," she said.

The party has vowed to continue its protests in Hakkari province, despite the ban.

Akis was the first mayor to be dismissed since local elections in March, in which the DEM gained control of several local authorities in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast.

On Tuesday, footage from cameras in the national parliament in Ankara showed rival lawmakers brawling as Akis's allies staged a protest in the chamber.

Clashes between protesters and police in Hakkari the same day led to several injuries and arrests.

According to the opposition news outlet Medyascope, officers fired rubber bullets at the protesters.

The social democratic CHP, Turkey's main opposition party, has expressed its support for Akis and sent a delegation to Hakkari.

In Turkey's national parliament, the DEM has 57 of the 594 seats, making it the third-largest party behind the ruling AKP and the main opposition CHP.

In 2019, the government dismissed around 50 elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish party, appointing administrators in their place.

The party's former president, Selahattin Demirtas, jailed since 2016, was sentenced in May to 42 years for a string of charges, including undermining state unity.