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TURKISH authorities were accused of being “viruses against democracy” following the removal and arrest of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-mayors in four largely Kurdish-populated municipalities today.
Government-appointed trustees took over the administrations of Batman, Silvan, Lice and Ergani, all of which returned HDP mayors with massive majorities in last year’s municipal elections.
Police lined up to prevent entry to the government buildings today and turned workers away while the offices were being searched and roads were blocked to traffic.
In operations across the four municipalities ordered by the Interior Ministry, police raided the homes of Silvan Co-mayor Naside Toprak and Ergani Co-mayor Ahmet Kaya, who were both detained.
Lice district co-chair Yusuf Teke said: “While the world thinks about how to fight the coronavirus, the government thinks how to exploit the Kurds.”
The government has now taken control of 36 of the 65 municipalities won by the HDP in last March’s elections, which ended in humiliation for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
It lost control of the capital Ankara and, despite the government forcing a rerun, former prime minister Binali Yildirim lost to Kemalist opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who won by almost 800,000 votes.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then went on the offensive, blaming HDP for his party’s defeats. He had already warned that he would refuse to recognise HDP victories, insisting that it is a terrorist organisation linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
In August he made his move, ousting the democratically elected mayors of the largely Kurdish municipalities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces in south-eastern Turkey.
The HDP warned of a “political genocide” against the Kurdish population.
More than 15,000 HDP members and activists have been detained since 2015, with 6,000 receiving jail sentences, according to the party.
At least 200 elected officials and seven former HDP MPs are behind bars, including former party co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas.
Meanwhile, the government has been accused of responding too slowly to the coronavirus crisis. Nationwide, 30 deaths have been reported, but a cover-up of the true figure is suspected.
Confirmed cases shot up to 1,236 after 289 more people tested positive for the virus on Sunday.
Security forces have detained 31 people in the south-eastern city of Adana for writing about coronavirus on social media.
They were charged with “causing panic and fear among people and the illegal dissemination of personal data.”
Batman MP Ayse Aycar Basaran branded the AKP a “public health problem,” warning that it was undermining the fight against coronavirus by launching “a coup” against the HDP.
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