Turkish court arrests seven people for burning ballot papers in Urfa

A court has arrested seven people about the ballot paper burning incident in the Hilvan district of Turkey’s southeastern Urfa province during the local elections, including relatives of the current mayor from the AKP. The elections will be renewed in the district won by the pro-Kurdish DEM Party. 

Duvar English

A Turkish court on April 7 arrested seven out of the 13 people detained in relation to the surfaced ballot burning footage in southeastern Urfa’s Hilvan district during the 31 March local elections.

The remaining six people were released with judicial control measures. 

Among the arrests were the nephews of Hilvan’s current mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Aslan Ali Bayık, and Sabri İzol, a municipal council candidate from the AKP, according to reporting by the Mesopotamia Agency (MA).

Officials have stated that further details were not provided due to the confidentiality order on the case. 

Security camera footage from the evening of March 31, the day of Turkey’s local elections, showed a 50-people group burning ballots in a garbage container.

Initial reports revealed that the contents of two ballot boxes in the district’s youth center were burned. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party had won the district mayorship with a 521 vote margin. 

The local AKP branch contested the results, and the district electoral board ruled to hold a reelection on June 2, citing the ballot burning footage. 

The DEM Party contested election results in the Şırnak province claiming the votes from police officers and military personnel transferred from around the country has skewed the outcome. 

The party's mayoral candidate lost to the AKP candidate by 2,500 votes, which corresponded to the number of transferred law enforcement voters in the province. 

Nevertheless, the DEM Party won multiple district, provincial, and metropolitan municipalities in the Kurdish-majority southeast, many of which were run by government-appointed trustee mayors since 2019.

The Interior Ministry ousted the democratically elected mayors of the DEM Party’s predecessor People’s Democratic Party (HDP) with a presidential decree (KHK) and probes into their alleged support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

DEM Party’s primary objective for the local elections of 2024 was to regain control of these trustee-run provinces.