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Turkey's ousted pro-Kurdish mayors denounce 'political' sackings

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Istanbul (AFP)

Three pro-Kurdish mayors sacked by the Turkish government this month over alleged links to militants lambasted on Thursday a "political putsch" they vowed to challenge in court.

The mayors of the eastern cities -- all members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) elected in March -- were removed on August 19 over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The sacking of the Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van mayors -- Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan respectively -- came after they had won strong majorities.

Since their removal, there have been protests in the Kurdish-majority region, often blocked by police using heavy force including water cannon.

"We were deprived of the opportunity to serve the people by the political putsch on August 19," said Turk, the deposed Mardin mayor and a key figure in the Kurdish movement.

"It's a political decision aimed at preventing the Kurdish people's struggle for democracy, to intimidate the people and to block our efforts to bring about change in Turkey," he added.

Ertan said the HDP was going to "exhaust all legal channels" to challenge the sackings.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week defended the decision accusing the mayors of serving "terrorists instead of the people".

The interior ministry said there had been complaints against the three of providing financial support to the PKK.

The PKK is banned as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

Turk said the allegations were "unfounded".

The Ankara-appointed governors of each province will be in charge of the three municipalities.

Erdogan often accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, but the party says it is being targeted because of its strong opposition to the president.

Dozens of officials and elected HDP MPs were arrested during a crackdown after a failed 2016 coup bid.

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