Thursday, September 28, 2006

DTP mayors go on trial for aiding PKK

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

'I repeat here what we wrote in the letter and I am ready to serve whatever criminal punishment it may entail,' says Osman Baydemir to the court

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Fifty six mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) went on trial yesterday in Diyarbakır for aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a charge that carries up to 15 years in prison.

The charges against the mayors stem from a letter they sent to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December, asking him to allow Roj TV, a Denmark-based television station to stay on the air, despite Ankara's requests to get it closed down.

Forty six mayors, including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, attended the first hearing of the trial at a criminal court in Diyarbakır, while ten others abstained.

In a statement to the court, the Justice Ministry said Roj TV was a continuation of Med TV and Medya TV, whose broadcasting licenses were earlier revoked in France and Britain for being linked with the PKK. The executive chairman of the channel is also a member of the executive board of the PKK and its offshoot Kongra-Gel, the ministry also said.

Senior PKK militants often join the station's broadcasts by satellite telephone from their mountain hideouts in northern Iraq.

"I repeat here what we wrote in the letter and I am ready to serve whatever criminal punishment it may entail," Baydemir told the court. "I am against all types of violence. I am against the Kurdish opposition using violence as well."

He said some of the programs broadcast on Roj TV were very useful and added that there would be no need for Roj TV to broadcast from abroad if televisions here could broadcast in Kurdish.

"We reject the indictment and the accusations it levels," said Fırat Anlı, one of the mayors at the hearing. He said he was speaking on behalf of all the mayors. He said the indictment did not meet the necessary requirements to be considered an indictment, complaining that it rather looked like a complaint letter by Interior Ministry inspectors.

The indictment charges that by seeking to prevent the closure of the station, the mayors have committed the offense of "knowingly and willingly supporting" a terrorist group.

It says that Roj TV hosts PKK leaders, carries PKK statements inciting violence and follows a broadcasting policy "in line with PKK propaganda."

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.

The mayors, on the other hand, wrote to Rasmussen that silencing Roj TV "would mean the loss of an important vehicle in the struggle for democracy and human rights" in Turkey.

The Roj TV issue has strained Turkish-Danish relations as well. In reaction to the prosecution of the mayors, Rasmussen said in June that putting the mayors on trial over the letter contradicted the values of the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join.
During a visit to Copenhagen in November, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan boycotted a joint news conference with Rasmussen after the latter rejected his request that a Roj TV reporter be barred from entry.


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