November 16, 2019 / 7:50 AM / 21 days ago

Turkey replaces four more Kurdish mayors over alleged terror links

FILE PHOTO: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey removed four more mayors from their posts on Saturday as part of a widening government crackdown against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and replaced them with state appointees.

President Tayyip Erdogan and his government accuse the HDP of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links.

On Saturday, the mayors of Mazidag, Savur and Derik in the southeastern province of Mardin were replaced with appointees, while the mayor of the Suruc district in the Sanliurfa province was also removed, bringing to 24 the number of mayors who have been dismissed after being elected earlier this year.

The HDP governs many cities in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey, and says it is the target of a systematic government plot to deplete its ranks.

The former co-leaders of the HDP have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the PKK.

The moves against the HDP come as Turkish troops carry out a military offensive in neighbouring Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara sees a terrorist group and also accuses of ties to the PKK.

The HDP is the only party in the Turkish parliament that has opposed the offensive in northeast Syria that began on Oct. 9.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Kim Coghill

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