Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, the former mayor of southeastern Diyarbakır province from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was acquitted of charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, Turkish media reported.
Mızraklı was accused of taking part in a three-day hunger strike, tweeting in support of Kurdish activist Ramin Hossein Penahi, who was executed in Iran, and taking part in a conference organized by the HDP in October 2018 at which the situation of the Kurdish population was discussed.
In his defense Mızraklı said democracy and human rights had taken a turn for the worse in Turkey, especially since a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Mızraklı added that he did not accept the accusations as his only goal was to ensure the restoration of democracy in Turkey.
“I reject the accusations of terrorist propaganda,” he said. “Whatever I did, I did for peace and democracy.”
Mızraklı pointed out the Turkish authorities had yet to release Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling. “We want to believe that Turkey upholds the law, but that is not the case,” he said.
He brought to mind the Venice Commission’s 2020 call to the Turkish government urging it to reinstate the HDP mayors who were removed from office in southeastern provinces and said the authorities had completely disregarded the call.
The Ankara 28th High Criminal Court ruled that Mızraklı had not spread terrorist propaganda but had exercised his right to freedom of expression.
Mızraklı is currently imprisoned in Kayseri Bünyan Prison for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.
He was removed from office by the Interior Ministry on August 19, 2019, and a trustee was appointed in his place. Mızraklı was arrested in October 2019 and sentenced to nine years, four months in prison. An appeals court upheld his sentence in March 2020.
Mayors Keziban Yılmaz, Gülcan Özer and Rojda Nazlıer were also removed from office and later arrested for alleged links to the PKK.
Human Rights Watch said the Turkish authorities’ removal and arrest of democratically elected Kurdish mayors across southeastern Turkey violated voters’ rights.
“Removing, detaining, and putting on trial local Kurdish politicians as armed militants with no compelling evidence of criminal activity seems to be the Turkish government’s preferred way to wipe out political opposition,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These cases are not linked to any legitimate counterterrorism effort but trample the rights of the mayors and the 1.8 million voters who elected them.”