Friday, June 23, 2006

Prosecutor Demands 15 Years in Prison for 56 DTP Mayors

Turkish Daily News

Thursday,June 22 , 2006


A Turkish prosecutor has demanded 15 years in prison for 56 pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) mayors who wrote to Denmark's prime minister urging him to resist Turkish calls to ban an allegedly pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) television station, the Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday.

The mayors were expected to stand trial soon in Diyarbakır , where the PKK has been fighting for autonomy for more than two decades. No trial date has been set.

The trial of the mayors is likely to further strain Turkey 's ties with the European Union, which has been pressuring the EU-candidate country to expand freedom of speech and improve treatment of its Kurdish citizens. Ankara does not recognize the Kurds as an official minority and has ruled out any dialogue with the PKK.

The mayors were charged after they sent a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asking him to keep the Roj TV station on the air in Denmark despite claims from Turkey that it was a mouthpiece for the PKK, the agency said.

The indictment accused the mayors of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. The PKK has been listed by the European Union and the United States as a terror group.

Fogh Rasmussen strongly criticized the Turkish move last week.

"I find it rather shocking ... that because you write a letter to me, you are being accused of violating the law," Fogh Rasmussen told Danish public radio. "It is shocking that it can take place in a country which is seeking EU membership."

Last year, the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen demanded that Denmark revoke the station's broadcasting license. The Danish government has refused to do so, citing freedom of speech.

However, Danish police have been investigating whether Roj TV has any ties with the PKK, something the station has repeatedly denied. It was unclear when the probe would end.

Danish-Turkish relations have long been strained over Kurdish groups based in Denmark.

In 1995, a political arm of the PKK opened its fourth European office in Copenhagen , sparking protests from the Turkish Embassy. The office later closed because of a lack of funding. In 2000, Turkey protested that a Kurdish-language satellite TV station, Mesopotamia TV, was allowed to broadcast from Denmark to Europe , the Middle East and northern Africa.