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Turkish court jails ousted mayor of Kurdish populated Diyarbakir

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People walk in front of the court house in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2019. (File photo by AFP)

An ousted mayor in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish populated province of Diyarbakir has been sentenced to more than nine years in prison over membership in a ‘terrorist’ organization.

The Anadolu state news agency, quoting judicial sources, reported on Monday that Selcuk Mizrakli had been sentenced to nine years, four months and fifteen days in jail for “membership in an armed terror group.”

Prosecutors said he had attended the funerals of members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and meetings involving the group's propaganda.

The mayor of the provincial capital Diyarbakir was removed from his post in August 2019 over allegations that he was linked to the PKK.

Last year, Turkish authorities removed from their positions more than 20 mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) over similar allegations, just months after they won local elections in March.

More than twenty co-mayors are also either in jail pending trial or have been handed prison sentences for crimes related to terrorism.

Critics say the suspensions are aimed at removing political opposition to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the country's southeast in the wake of poor election results.

The removal of the mayors echoed the dismissal of dozens of peers in 2016 over charges of the same nature. That episode was part of a purge that began after a failed coup. Nearly 100 mayors and thousands of HDP party members were jailed in a massive crackdown.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed the HDP has links to the PKK. 

The HDP says it has no official connection to the PKK but has tried to broker peace talks between the insurgents and government.

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast attached to northern Iraq.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

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