Duvar English 

The dismissed mayors of the Ipekyolu district in Turkey’s eastern province of Van have been sentenced to prison on charges of assisting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with material aid, though municipality employees testified that the aid was distributed to refugees in the area. 

Şehzade Kurt was sentenced to six years and three months in prison, while Azim Yacan was sentenced to seven years and three months. Both are among the dozens of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayors who were stripped from their posts after being elected in last year’s local elections. 

Secret witnesses testified that the co-mayors purchased hundreds of blankets and bulk supplies of dried food to send to PKK militants, but testimony by municipal staff members disputes this allegation: 

“There were warnings made to the municipality regarding refugees sleeping on the streets and in the parks of our province. We bought 400 blankets at 65 TL a piece. We distributed these blankets to the refugees in our district for whom we are responsible,” said municipal employee B.K. 

“The Ipekyolu Municipality purchased 400 blankets. I went and picked up the blankets in question. We distributed them to the refugees in our district. We also handed out food, and gave refugees comforters, pillows and blankets from our homes,” said another municipal employee.