Thursday, September 28, 2006

56 Turkish mayors on trial over Kurdish TV

Published: Wednesday, 27 September, 2006, 11:10 AM Doha Time

DIYARBAKIR: Fifty-six Kurdish mayors went on trial yesterday over a letter they sent to Denmark's prime minister in a case that has raised concerns in the European Union.
The mayors from Turkey's largest Kurdish party are charged by state prosecutors with "knowingly and willingly" helping Kurdish rebels when they urged Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen not to close Danish-based Kurdish broadcaster Roj TV.

The members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which champions Kurdish rights, each face up to 15 years in jail if convicted. Forty-five of the mayors attended the court yesterday. The criminal court judge adjourned the trial until November 21.

"The problem (of Kurdish rights) cannot be solved by closing Roj TV, which has been forced to broadcast from Denmark," said Yenisehir mayor Firat Anli in a defence statement on behalf of the mayors, noting that similar channels had been shut in the past.

"The way to reach a solution for our problems is to enable people to produce and watch Kurdish language broadcasts without bans or limitations in these ancient lands in which we live," he said.
Ankara accused Roj TV of being a mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of carving out an ethnic homeland in the southeast.

Rasmussen said in June that putting the mayors on trial over the letter contravened the values of the EU, which Turkey hopes to join.

The Danish government has also resisted pressure from Turkey to shut the station, citing freedom of expression. – Reuters


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