Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Over 50 DTP mayors to stand trial for Roj-TV letter

The New Anatolian / Ankara
26 September 2006

Scores of mayors from a pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey are to stand trial today for urging Denmark's premier to let a controversial Danish-based Kurdish broadcaster stay on the air.

Fifty-six pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party's (DTP) mayors wrote to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen last year asking him to keep allegedly pro-terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Roj-TV, which is based in Denmark, on the air despite a statement from the Turkish government asserting that the broadcaster is a mouthpiece for the organization.

The mayors, including controversial Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, will be tried on charges of "aiding and abetting a terrorist group."

The indictment against them, prepared by the Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and sent to the Diyarbakir High Criminal Court in June, seeks sentences ranging from seven-and-a-half to 15 years in prison under Article 220/7 of the revised Turkish Penal Code (TCK) which stipulates the same sentences for people who deliberately aid and abet terrorist groups as group members.

An army of lawyers, including Diyarbakir's Bar Association head Sezgin Tanrikulu, his deputy Tahir Elci, and Human Rights Association's (IHD) Diyarbakir branch head Selahattin Demirtas, will defend the accused.

Reports say the defendants will underscore freedom of expression and the right to broadcast and provide education in one's mother tongue.

The issue of closing Roj-TV last year created a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Denmark. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a news conference with Rasmussen in Copenhagen to protest the presence of Roj-TV journalists there.

Also the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen requested Denmark revoke the station's broadcasting license but to date the Danish government has refused to do so, citing freedom of speech. Later, the U.S. intervened and urged Denmark to close down the channel, sending Copenhagen a secret letter which has been included in a file on the channel.

However Danish police have been investigating whether Roj-TV has any ties with the PKK, something the station has repeatedly denied. It's unclear when the probe might end.

In 1995 a political wing of the PKK opened its fourth European office in Copenhagen, sparking protests from the Turkish Embassy. The office later closed because of a lack of funding. In 2000 Turkey protested that a Kurdish-language satellite TV station, Mesopotamia TV, was allowed to broadcast from Denmark to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.


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