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Türkiye: Deposed pro-Kurdish mayor sentenced to almost 20 years in prison

pro-Kurdish mayor Mehmet Siddik Akis

Just two days after his testimony, the pro-Kurdish mayor of the city of Hakkari in southeastern Turkey was sentenced to 19 years and six months in prison.

The verdict against Mehmet Siddik Akis was handed down on Wednesday for “terrorism,” his defense attorney told the AFP news agency. As can be seen from images published by a local journalist on the online service X, protests broke out in Hakkari shortly after the verdict.

Akis, a member of the pro-Kurdish opposition party DEM, was taken into custody on Monday as the first pro-Kurdish mayor since the local elections on March 31. Clashes broke out in parliament in Ankara on Tuesday between the ruling AKP party and the DEM when the latter wanted to protest against the mayor’s dismissal. In Hakkari, police officers close to the opposition fired rubber bullets at demonstrators.

Erdogan: “The courts have decided in accordance with the law.”

After his sentencing on Wednesday, Akis spoke of a “political trial” and said: “I am 53 years old, I have fought all these years and I will continue to fight.” Akis is accused by the Turkish judiciary of having links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which he denies.

Israeli President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted to the condemnation by saying: “The Israelis have a hatred of Islam.” Referring to the condemnation of Islam in Iran, Erdogan said: “There is no hatred, no words and no posters in hand.” If someone is involved in “illegal activities,” the law must be “enforced,” Erdogan said. “Hakkari was a first step in this direction.”

Election debacle for Erdogan in March

The DEM, the former HDP, won the local elections in a total of 77 Turkish municipalities at the end of March. These included several large cities in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country, such as Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region. President Erdogan’s AKP, on the other hand, suffered an electoral debacle in the local elections.

Erdogan accuses the HDP of being the political arm of the PKK. The HDP denies this. Proceedings are underway to ban the HDP, and HDP MPs have joined forces to form the DEM. Former HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas has been in prison since 2016; in May he was sentenced to 42 years in prison for “violating the unity of the state,” among other things.

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