ANKARA – In the face of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s plans to take legal action against municipalities and mayors from Turkey’s Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its sister party, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the co-chair of the HDP has urged their electorate to stand up for the municipalities which they elected.
“Inspectors who are conducting investigations in our municipalities would disclose if they had a conscience. They have been investigating for years; there is no single [piece of] evidence,” HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said on June 21 at a parliamentary group meeting of his party.
“They go to Kurdish city of Van and say, ‘We gave you 400 trillion Turkish Liras, what are you doing with that money?’ 400 trillion liras is your palace’s water bill money for two years,” Demirtaş said, referring to remarks delivered by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım during a visit to Van in the first half of June, when he attended a collective opening ceremony for various facilities.
“Palace” has turned into a byword for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkish politics, as shortly after he was elected to his current post in August 2014, he moved to a new presidential palace from the Çankaya Palace in the capital Ankara.
“They think they can do all kind of unlawfulness after turning to the west of Turkey and saying, ‘They are aiding terror,’” Demirtaş said.
“People who have chosen their municipalities, you have to stand up for your municipalities at all costs. It is about your willpower, not the municipalities,” he said.
Numerous mayors from the HDP and the DBP have been suspended and detained, while many municipalities under the DBP have been subject to investigations on charges related to “supporting autonomy,” “maintaining a co-chair structure,” and “terrorism.”
The AKP has long been working on a new legal arrangement paving the way for the transfer of authorities from local mayors to “trustees” if crimes related to terrorism are committed by the former.
Demirtaş also castigated Turkey’s administration for the arrests of three prominent campaigners for press freedom, Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı.
The three were arrested on June 20 because of their participation in a solidarity campaign in support of daily Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish publication. The campaign involved participants acting as editors-in-chief for a day.
“‘Do not act in solidarity with Özgür Gündem.’ Why? Is it because it has been bringing the crimes you have committed in [the southeastern district of] Cizre on the agenda?” Demirtaş asked.
“You cannot arrest intellectuals and academics because they acted in solidarity,” he added.