Top appeals court overturns former HDP mayor’s 'terrorism' conviction

The Court of Cassation, Turkey's high court of appeals, has overturned the nine-year prison sentence given to jailed former Diyarbakır mayor Selçuk Mızraklı over alleged “terrorism” charges.

Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR

Turkey's top court overturned terrorism-related conviction of given to the former mayor of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, Selçuk Mızraklı. 

Mızraklı, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was removed from office on Aug. 19, 2019 over “terrorism” charges. On March 9, the Diyarbakır 9th Heavy Penal Court sentenced him to nine years, four months and 15 days in jail over “membership to a terrorist organization,” referring the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Court of Cassation ruled that Mızraklı's right to defense was violated, and the conviction was based on “incomplete investigation.” 

The court also found it unlawful to "decide without examining the tape records and digital materials and without taking the statement of the accused and their lawyers against the report to be prepared on this subject.”

However, the court rejected Mızraklı's request for release.

Now, Mızraklı will be subject to a retrial in the local court.

After the decision, Mızraklı's prison mate, former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said in a tweet that "The conspiratorial sentence given to my cellmate, Selçuk Mızraklı, was overturned in the Court of Cassation. Unfortunately, they did not release him. Those who stole Diyarbakır's will, those who took the freedom of Selçuk Hoca and thousands of prisoners will be held accountable before the law. Don't worry, the times are changing."

Since March 2019 local elections, mayors have been replaced by trustees in more than half of the roughly 65 municipalities won by the HDP. Ankara has appointed governors and other local authorities as trustees in those provinces/districts.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links.