Mayor from pro-Kurdish DEM Party faces investigation for ‘insulting’ the president

Mümin Erol

Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into Mümin Erol, co-mayor of the Tatvan district from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by removing his portrait from his office, the Duvar news website reported.

The Tatvan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in the eastern province of Bitlis began the investigation on Thursday after footage emerged on social media showing Erol removing Erdoğan’s photograph on the day he took office.

Erol won the local election on March 31 with 48.52 percent of the vote, marking a significant shift as control of the municipality moved from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the DEM Party.

It’s common for the Turkish authorities to prosecute elected Kurdish mayors. Following the 2019 municipal elections, numerous Kurdish mayors were ousted by the Interior Ministry and replaced by government-appointed trustees on allegations of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s and has been designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.

Turkish authorities have been accused by rights groups of equating pro-Kurdish political opposition to terrorism and prosecuting politicians based on their speeches, social media posts and attendance at peaceful events rather than demonstrating any substantial ties to armed violence.

Turkey’s anti-terror laws are frequently criticized by human rights groups and international organizations for being overly broad and ambiguous, allowing too much room for interpretation.

The country’s massive purges in the aftermath of a failed military coup in mid-2016 included the summary removal of more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors immediately after the failed coup which, according to many international observers, had a chilling effect on the legal professionals who continued to work in the judiciary.

Erdoğan’s government has also been accused of replacing the purged judicial members with young and inexperienced judges and prosecutors who have close links to the ruling AKP.

In a development that confirmed the erosion of the Turkish judiciary, Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the 2023 Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in late October, dropping one place in comparison to the previous year.

Mehmet Sıddık Akış, co-mayor of Hakkari from the DEM Party, was detained by Turkish police on June 3 over alleged PKK links and replaced by a government trustee. On June 5, a Turkish court sentenced Akış to nearly 20 years in prison on charges related to terrorism, concluding a case that had been ongoing for nearly a decade.

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