Ankara court arrests pro-Kurdish co-mayor, 16 pro-Kurdish politicians

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An Ankara court on Friday arrested 17 politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including the co-mayor of the eastern city of Kars, the Arti Gercek news website reported.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of Kars Co-mayor Ayhan Bilgen and 81 other politicians on Sept. 25 over their alleged role in protests in Kurdish majority cities against what is seen by many as the Turkish government’s tacit approval of the Kobane siege in 2014, when Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants laid a prolonged siege to a Kurdish town in northern Syria.

Police reportedly detained 20 of the suspects, and the court arrested 17 of them, releasing former HDP deputies Altan Tan and Sırrı Süreyya Önder and HDP member and feminist author Gülfer Akkaya, while former MPs Emine Ayna, Nazmi Gör and Beyza Üstün were arrested.

Ali Ürküt, a member of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the public media watchdog, holding the post allocated to the HDP due to its seats in parliament, was also among the 17 arrested. 

According to Artı Gerçek the lawyers for the detainees were not allowed into the room where the judge read the arrest decision to their clients. Footage from the courthouse shows a lawyer shouting from a distance, telling clients not to enter the judge’s chambers.

“What they’re doing is unlawful. Don’t go in there. They won’t let your lawyers in,” he was heard saying.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government removed Bilgen from office, appointing a trustee in his stead, raising the number of mayoralties stripped from the HDP to 46 out of 53 the party won in the March 2019 polls.

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