Friday, June 30, 2006

Turkish mayors may face jail for letters sent to Danish PM

Published: 06/16/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)


Diyarbakir: Dozens of mayors from Turkey's troubled southeast could face up to 10 years in jail for sending a letter to Denmark's prime minister, a court indictment showed yesterday.

A state prosecutor has charged 56 mayors with "knowingly and willingly helping" the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) when they urged Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen not to close the Danish-based Kurdish broadcaster Roj TV.

No date has been set for the trial and the criminal court must still accept the charges for the case to go ahead.

Last week a mayor from the southeast was sentenced to 15 months in jail for comments broadcast on Roj TV.

Turkey accuses Roj of being a mouthpiece of the separatist PKK, which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of carving out an ethnic homeland. More than 30,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in that conflict.

Ankara is also under pressure from the European Union, which it hopes to join, to improve the cultural rights of its ethnic minorities, especially the 12 million Kurds who until the 1990s were banned from even using their language in public.

In the letter sent to Rasmussen last December, the mayors of some of the largest cities in the southeast urged him to resist any pressure from Ankara to close down Roj TV, which they said was necessary for democracy in Turkey.


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