Ousted Kurdish mayor attacked by police dogs, tortured in home for hours

Ousted co-mayor of Van’s Edremit Municipality Rojbin Çetin was attacked by police dogs and tortured in her home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır during a police raid on June 26, deputy chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) parliamentary group Meral Danış Beştaş said at a press conference over the weekend.

Çetin is also a member of the HDP’s local governments board.

Beştaş said that “two police dogs were unleashed on Çetin before the police officers entered the house. The dogs bit both her legs and broke the skin … According to the medical report, there is the mark of a boot on her waist, her lip is split and there are injuries on many parts of her arms and body.” According to Beştaş, Çetin was alone in her home during the raid, and the torture went on for three-and-a-half hours. The police also prevented Çetin’s lawyer from entering the premises.

Beştaş claimed the attack on Çetin was deliberately organized and watched by the police officers. “She should have detained by the counterterrorism police, but they were accompanied by a special operations team. … We have learned that the police talked to all the residents of the apartment building and warned them against going out or communicating with the outside. They were threatened,” she said.

The Ministry of Interior has removed the mayors of some 45 HDP-run municipalities due to terrorism-related charges based on legal amendments to the Law on Municipalities introduced by an emergency decree-law and has appointed trustees to replace them. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an accusation denied by the party.

There were similar allegations about the Diyarbakır police following a house raid on May 31, part of an operation to find the suspected killer of a police officer. The two victims accused the police of letting their dogs attack them during the raid.

Ayşe Acar Başaran, the spokesperson of the HDP Women’s Assembly, said Çetin was also sexually abused by the police. She was stripped half-naked, her eyes were covered and photos were taken of her. Başaran asked: “What are you going to do with these photos? Where are you going to publish them? To which [social media] troll are you going to hand them?”

The Diyarbakır police denied the allegations in a statement, saying: “A specially trained search dog held the suspect by her right foot and prevented her from running away after she tried to jump over the balcony door [sic]. … To avoid harm to herself and the officers, the suspect was apprehended by the gradual use of force.”

In a press release the Diyarbakır Bar Association also condemned abuse and torture of Çetin and said they would file an official complaint against the perpetrators and those hiding them.

HDP deputies on Monday submitted parliamentary questions about the incident to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. The deputies asked if the police were instructed to attack Çetin to intimidate the public and if there were any investigations into the incident.

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