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Ousted Kurdish mayor given same sentence in retrial

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The Turkish court that retried Selçuk Mızraklı, the former co-mayor of the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey who was dismissed and replaced by a trustee, has handed down the same sentence of more than nine years to the politician.

In December 2022 the 16th Criminal Chamber of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals declined to uphold Mızraklı’s prison sentence on the grounds that the allegations against the former mayor had not been sufficiently investigated. Mızraklı was convicted by the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court in March 2020 and was sentenced to nine years, four months and 15 days.

The appeals court, however, rejected Mızraklı’s request for release.

Mızraklı, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was removed from office by the Ministry of Interior on August 19, 2019 on the grounds of an ongoing “terrorism-related” investigation. He was subsequently tried and convicted of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s verdict and ruled that the prison sentence imposed by the local court was based on incomplete and insufficient reasoning.

The appeals court pointed out that the fact that Mızraklı was prevented from appearing directly before the court and that presenting his defense through the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS) limited his right to defend himself.

The high court concluded that it was contrary to the law for the court to make a decision without examining the digital materials in the file that were allegedly “related to the PKK” without preparing a report on them and without obtaining the testimony of the defendant.

Following the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision, the case file was transferred to the local court in Diyarbakır for a retrial of Mızraklı, who is being held in a prison in western Turkey’s Edirne province.

The Diyarbakır court, which heard the retrial, handed down the same sentence to the former mayor.

In the local elections of March 31, 2019, Mızraklı, a medical doctor by profession, was elected mayor of the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır after garnering 62.93 percent of the vote. The HDP won 65 municipalities in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern regions in the local elections. But due to the decisions of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) in six cases and the Interior Ministry, more than 50 have been removed from office or not allowed to assume office.

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