Thursday, June 22, 2006

Turks target mayors for TV plea

Wed 21 Jun 2006


A TURKISH prosecutor has demanded 15 years' imprisonment for 56 Kurdish mayors who wrote to Denmark's prime minister urging him to resist Turkish calls to ban an allegedly pro-rebel Kurdish television station.

The mayors are expected to stand trial soon in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated south-east, where Kurdish guerrillas have been fighting for autonomy for more than two decades.

The trial 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 minority.

Ankara does not recognise the Kurds as an official minority and has ruled out any dialogue with the guerrillas.

The mayors were charged after they wrote to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, asking him to keep the Roj TV station on the air in Denmark despite claims from Turkey that it was a mouthpiece for the guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The indictment accused the mayors of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. The PKK has been listed by both the EU and the US as a terrorist group.

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