A Turkish court has sentenced the former co-mayor of Turkey's southeastern city of Siirt to 10 years in prison on terrorism-related offences, according to a report by online news outlet sendika.org.
Tuncer Bakırhan, a former head of closed pro-Kurdish party DEHAP, was mayor for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), was arrested on December 16, 2016 and had his mayoral position rescinded by the Interior Ministry the next day. Since that time, the city has been directly ruled by a trustee appointed by Turkish government.
Bakırhan was charged with being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), 18 counts of making propaganda for the outlawed terrorist organisation, and two counts of organising illegal meetings, demonstrations or marches, and faced up to 111 years in prison.
Bakırhan insisted on his innocence and pointed to his long political career as evidence that he was not connected to terror. However, the court gave him 8 years and 9 months for membership of a terrorist organisation and 1 year, 3 months and 15 days for making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.
Bakırhan's lawyer Mesut Beştaş said that the charges were based on ordinary actions taking by his client as part of his mayoral duties and that the court had not bothered to research the police's accounts on them before accepting those accounts as true.
As all applications made for the court to research what had really happened had been rejected, Beştaş said, it was clear that the decision was purely political.
Meral Danış Beştaş, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) for Siirt province has issued a statement about the prison sentence given to Bakırhan and stated that "The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) interferes with the system of local governments, which is democracy implemented in the most direct way, through the appointment of trustees and punishes local administrators freely elected."
Beştaş added that "The co-mayor was punished for carrying out his duty as elected representative. He lived in and for the community, he provided funeral vehicles, participated in funeral ceremonies, participated in panels as moderator and made press statement. This is what he was punished for."
Stating that Bakırhan's name was not linked to any corruption, he did not abuse his duty, as it happens in other cities in Turkey, Beştaş said that "Yet the AKP ruled to punish the people of Siirt through the sentence of Bakırhan... The sentence handed down to Bakırhan shows only that the current government is in a difficult situation. When the law resources are over, government crises appear, it is inevitable!"