Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trial of 56 Turkish mayors over Kurdish TV starts

Tuesday 26,september.2006

Fifty-six Kurdish mayors went on trial on Tuesday over a letter they sent to Denmark 's prime minister in a case that has raised concerns in the European Union.

The members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which champions Kurdish rights, face up to 15 years in jail if convicted of the charges. Forty-five of the mayors attended the court on Tuesday. They were accused of allegedly helping the Kurdish rebels when they urged Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen not to close Danish-based Kurdish broadcaster Roj TV.

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.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in that conflict. The EU and the United States , as well as Turkey , view the PKK as a "terrorist" organisation.

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

Ankara , which began EU membership talks last October, has been criticised by Brussels for its slow pace of reform.

Turkey is under EU pressure to improve the cultural rights of its ethnic minorities, especially the 12 million Kurds who until the 1990s were banned from using their language in public.
Brussels has also called on Turkey to lower the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament in Ankara , which has prevented Kurdish parties from winning seats.

The trial comes a week after Brussels and Turkey 's media called on the government to scrap a controversial article of the penal code which has allowed nationalist-minded prosecutors to take intellectuals to court for allegedly insulting Turkishness.


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