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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey removes pro-Kurdish mayor over unrest

Ayhan Bilgen was taken into custody last Friday. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 October, 2020

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The HDP is Turkey's second biggest opposition party, but the government accuses it of being a political front for outlawed Kurdish militants.

Turkey on Friday removed a pro-Kurdish party mayor after his arrest over deadly 2014 protests, replacing him with a state-appointed governor as part of a broader crackdown against the leftist group.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) mayor of Kars city in eastern Turkey, Ayhan Bilgen, was taken into custody last Friday, when prosecutors issued 82 arrest warrants for people suspected of involvement in anti-government protests that left 37 dead.

Of the 65 HDP mayors returned in March 2019 elections, 48 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges, which they all deny.

The HDP is Turkey's second biggest opposition party, but the government accuses it of being a political front for outlawed Kurdish militants.

The party denies any terror links and insists it is targeted because of its vehement opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The interior ministry said Bilgen has been charged with "disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state".

It added that he would be replaced with the Kars governor, Turker Oksuz, who was originally appointed by the government. 

Bilgen had said on Wednesday he would resign regardless of whether he would be formally arrested or released in a bid to allow the city assembly's members to decide the mayor.

But seven HDP members of the assembly were removed from office on Thursday by the ministry after they were detained by police, rendering the move impossible.

Ankara says the HDP urged people to join the 2014 protests, which saw Kurds take to the streets in anger over Turkey's decision not to intervene and stop the Islamic State extremist group from attacking the mainly Kurdish northern Syrian border town of Kobane.

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