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Mayor files complaints against HDP members, journalists over reports about firing of worker

Bolu Mayor Tanju Özcan

A mayor in northwestern Turkey has filed a complaint against two lawmakers, an official from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and three journalists over reports that the municipality fired a worker for posting a photo on social media of a jailed Kurdish politician, the Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported on Monday, citing the mayor.

The complaint was filed by Bolu Mayor Tanju Özcan on allegations that include “inciting hatred and hostility among the people,” “praising crime and criminals” and “insulting and threatening a public officer due to his or her public duty,” DHA said, adding that it was directed at HDP lawmakers Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Ali Kenanoğlu, HDP official Cesim Soylu and journalists Kemal Özkiraz, Veli Saçılık and Hilal Nesrin.

The development comes after Gergerlioğlu last week tweeted a letter from Mahire Yentür, a janitor for the Bolu Municipality, claiming she was recently fired for posting a photo of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş on social media.

“Not only was she dismissed, she also experienced social exclusion,” the HDP deputy said, referring to Yentür, who stated in her letter that she was regarded by her coworkers as a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that it triggered a nervous breakdown, after which she was hospitalized.

Both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), frequently accuse HDP, the second-largest opposition group in parliament, of ties to the PKK. The party denies the government’s claim and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s so-called Kurdish issue.

Arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, on terrorism-related charges, former HDP co-chair Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

“HDP politicians are continuing their systematic attacks and are showing me as a target, at the direction of HDP [leaders]. … The reason our staff member [Yentür] was dismissed was because she had shared political posts on social media and at work despite repeated warnings,” Özcan said during a press meeting on Monday.

Stating that he also was being threatened by the outlawed PKK, Özcan added: “I didn’t file this complaint because I’m scared of them. I wanted this to be on the record.”

The Bolu mayor, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is notorious for his anti-refugee policies and frequently sparks criticism from human rights groups due to his remarks and measures targeting the refugees living in the city such as imposing exorbitant fees for municipal services on them.

In a statement to Tele1 news, Özcan previously said he had warned municipal employees in the past against sharing posts on social media about any political party and that the janitor’s firing had nothing to do with the HDP or the Kurds.

The mayor said the janitor’s dismissal was decided in an anonymous vote by the city’s disciplinary board and that her reinstatement was out of the question.

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