Thursday, June 22, 2006

Seen but not Kurd


Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (left) in conversation with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso

Photo © European Commission

More than 50 mayors in the Kurdish southeast of Turkey could be sent to jail over a letter that they sent to the Danish Prime Minister.

A Turkish court accepted the state prosecutor's charge that the mayors had "knowingly and willingly" aided Kurdish rebels by calling on Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen not to close Roj TV, a Kurdish channel based in Denmark.

Turkey accuses Roj TV of being a mouthpiece of the banned Kurdish Workers' Party, which is seeking to create an ethnic homeland in Kurdish regions. If convicted, the mayors face up to ten years in jail.

The case could even jeopardise Turkey 's campaign to join the EU. In comments made at an EU summit in Brussels last week, Mr Rasmussen said that trying the mayors over the letter would contravene European values.

"Such a trial is not something we will quietly accept because it would be completely contradictory to the principle that has to be met for countries wishing to join the EU," the Danish Prime Minister said.

In recent years, Turkey has eased restrictions on Kurdish language and culture, as part of its drive to join the EU, although the European Commission says it must do more.