Turkey arrests 3 more Kurdish politicians

HDP Party Council member Doğan Erbaş

An executive from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and two co-mayors in an eastern province were jailed on Tuesday, in the latest episode of an ongoing crackdown on Kurdish politicians in Turkey, local media outlets reported.

In Ankara, HDP Party Council member Doğan Erbaş, who is also a human rights activist, was detained and subsequently sent to prison to serve a 12-year sentence handed down to him on conviction of terrorist organization membership and spreading terrorist propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that encompasses the PKK.

Erbaş was sentenced by a high criminal court in İstanbul in December 2022 and had been at large, according to Turkish authorities.

Video footage released by the Ankara Police Department showing Erbaş, 60, being rear-handcuffed and taken into custody by two police officers who pushed his head against a police car sparked outrage among Kurdish rights activists, who described the treatment as humiliating.

Lawyer Başar Abdi Alınak said the release of the video “goes beyond physical and mental torture” and was aimed at intimidating and insulting Kurds.

Alınak said there was no reason for the politician to be taken into custody in such an insulting way since he was not resisting the police.

Prominent human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin also criticized the way Erbaş, who she referred to as a “very old friend,” was taken by the officers to the police vehicle, sharing the video on Twitter. “You still don’t understand, you can’t subdue [Kurds] even if it’s by force,” she tweeted.

In the eastern province of Ağrı, Müşerref Geçer and Emrah Kılıç, co-mayors of the Patnos district from the HDP who were detained last week, have been arrested.

The co-mayors were arrested along with three others as part of an investigation into allegations of committing fraud in municipal tenders.

Government critics say the charges are politically motivated.

Perihan Koca, a lawmaker from the opposition Green Left Party (YSP), a sister party to HDP, called on authorities last week to release the co-mayors, saying, “This is a way of appointing trustees… The appointment of trustees is a seizure of the people’s will.”

The Turkish government has removed 48 democratically elected HDP co-mayors from office and appointed trustees in their place since 2019, according to a report from the HDP.

The HDP stands accused of links to the PKK, although the party strongly denies any ties to it. The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to close down the HDP since March 2021 over its alleged ties to the PKK. Dozens of politicians from the party including the party’s co-chairs have been in jail for years on bogus terrorism charges.

The Turkish government speeded up the crackdown on the party ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections held last month due to the party’s support for the opposition’s presidential candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was defeated by Erdoğan in a runoff election held on May 28.

The party says it is being singled out for standing up for Kurdish rights and resisting the government’s expanding crackdown on political freedoms and dissent.

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