Turkey removes more Kurdish mayors over alleged terror links
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accuses the leftist opposition party of having links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia which has been engaged in an on-off civil war with the Turkish state since the early 1980s.
The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, but the HDP denies accusations it is linked to the group.
In recent years, the party has faced a major crackdown, with its former co-leaders and several politicians jailed and thousands of its members prosecuted. Dozens of local politicians representing the party in the Kurdish-majority southeast have also been removed from their posts in past years.
This year's March local elections saw HDP politicians return to mayoral posts in the southeast, but the party's victory was shortlived. Since April, more than 20 HDP mayors have been removed from their posts and replaced by government-appointed "trustees".
The mayors of Mazidag, Savur and Derik in the southeastern province of Mardin were replaced with appointees, as was the mayor of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, bringing the total removed from their posts this year to 24 according to Reuters.
Criminal cases were opened against the party's co-leaders, Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, last month.
The intensifying crackdown on the pro-Kurdish party comes amid Turkey's military offensive in neighbouring Syria.
Ankara launched the offensive in early October in an attempt to push back the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from its borders and create a "safe zone".
The SDF's main constituent party, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), has acknowledged ties to the PKK.
The HDP is the only party to have stood against the offensive, mirroring its stance on Turkey's Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish forces in Afrin last year.
Hundreds have been detained for criticising this year's Operation Peace Spring and last year's offensive.
"Since the start of the military offensive, Turkey's already entrenched atmosphere of censorship and fear has deepened, with detentions and trumped-up charges used to silence the few who dare to utter any challenge or criticism of 'Operation Peace Spring',"Amnesty International's Europe Director, Marie Struthers, said in a statement earlier this month.
"The Turkish authorities must stop gagging opinions they don't like and end the ongoing crackdown. All charges and prosecutions of those targeted for peaceful expression of their opposition to Turkey's military operations should be immediately dropped."
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