Müşerref Geçer and Emrah Kılıç, the co-mayors of Patnos in Turkey’s eastern Ağrı province from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), have been detained, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Rûdaw news website.
The police have not disclosed the accusations behind their detentions, Rûdaw said.
Perihan Koca, a lawmaker from the opposition Green Left Party (YSP), called on authorities to release co-mayors Geçer and Kılıç, saying, “This is a way of appointing trustees… The appointment of trustees is a seizure of the people’s will.”
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in May that trustees in municipalities in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey were appointed by his ministry on instructions from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Last year, the Turkish Constitutional Court found no violation of rights in the cases of two former mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province who were removed from office and replaced by government-appointed trustees in 2015 and 2016.
The Turkish government has removed 48 HDP co-mayors from office and appointed trustees in their place since 2019, according to a report from the HDP.
Speaking to journalists about the HDP report, party officials said 72 co-mayors had been arrested since the first trustee appointment in June 2019 and that 15 of them are currently behind bars.
The ousted mayors were elected in March 2019, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a significant blow by losing the mayoralties of three major cities — İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir — to opposition candidates.
The HDP stands accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), although the party strongly denies any ties. 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 Erdoğan has been trying to close down the HDP since March 2021 over its alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdish militants.
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.