Turkey requests extradition of popular Kurdish former mayor living in UK

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir (Amed) has drafted an extradition request and red notice for the UK-based Osman Baydemir, a former prominent lawmaker and popular mayor from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkish media reported on Thursday.
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ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir (Amed) has drafted an extradition request and red notice for the UK-based Osman Baydemir, a former prominent lawmaker and popular mayor from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkish media reported on Thursday.

Baydemir served as the mayor of the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir between 2004 and 2014 and then represented Sanliurfa in the national parliament.

In December 2017, Baydemir was banished from two sessions following an incident when he was questioned repeatedly by the speaker of the parliament as to exactly where Kurdistan was located. Gesturing toward his heart, he replied “This, this very place is Kurdistan, Mrs. Speaker. Kurdistan is right here.” 

Read More: Kurdish MP banished from Turkey Parliament for uttering ‘Kurdistan’ 

In their new application to the Turkish Justice Ministry, prosecutors said that Baydemir is being sought on charges of “being a member of armed terrorist group,” a charge used by the Turkish state to imprison multiple politicians.

According to the website Ahval, in April 2018, Baydemir had been stripped of his parliamentary status over a finalized prison sentence for “terrorist propaganda.”

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought Ankara in a decades-long guerrilla war over state repression of Kurdish rights. Those in the HDP deny the charges.

The Turkish government has previously seized over 90 municipalities that the HDP had won in 2014, replacing them with government trustees and even jailed some 60 mayors in an ongoing crackdown that began in late 2016 after a failed military coup.

In October 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even vowed to seize HDP municipalities just after local elections were held in March 2019.   

After the vote, the state-appointed trustees to 40 HDP-run municipalities. Additionally, six HDP mayors who won in the elections were denied certificates with the excuse given that they had been disqualified due to having been previously dismissed from their jobs by emergency rule government decrees. 

On March 23, Turkish police raided several HDP-run municipalities, detaining many elected mayors and replacing eight elected Kurdish mayors with trustees. On Thursday, the Turkish police also arrested former HDP deputy Leyla Güven, reported Ahval. She was released after giving a statement to the police.

Furthermore, HDP lawmaker Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting” Erdogan.

The UK-based Mark Campbell, Co-Chair of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, told Kurdistan 24 that his organization would fight if the UK agrees to grant Turkey’s extradition request of Baydemir.

“Would the UK government react positively to a Turkish request for the extradition of Osman Baydemir? I would hope not, but you never can tell,” he said.

“Richard Moore, the ex-ambassador to Turkey and friend of Erdogan has now been appointed as the head of the UK Secret Services, MI6 and the UK government have tried to help the Turkish state criminalise the YPG by trying international volunteers who return to the UK.” 

“So our fear is that the UK could contemplate such a draconian move,” he concluded, adding, “There would, however, be a very big reaction if the UK government did attempt to extradite Mr Baydemir and the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign would be the forefront of fighting such an extradition.”

Editing by John J. Catherine