Thursday, September 28, 2006

Turkey starts trial of 56 mayors charged with helping Kurdish rebels

A criminal court in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday started a trial of 56 mayors charged with "knowingly and willingly" helping keep a Kurdish TV station on the air in Denmark, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. Of the total, 45 mayors including Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir attended the opening hearing in the court in Diyarbakir , Turkey's largest Kurdish-dominated city, according to the report.

The 56 mayors of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) are indicted of sending a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December 2005 asking him to keep Danish-based Kurdish Roj TV on the air.

The mayors may face up to 15 years in prison under Articles 314 and 220 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK) if found guilty.

The Turkish government claims that the TV station is a media organ of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), asking Denmark to revoke the station's broadcasting license.

But the Danish government has refused to acquiesce, citing freedom of speech, saying that Danish police have been investigating whether Roj TV has any ties with the PKK, which the station has repeatedly denied.

The PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has stepped up violence in Turkey since it called off a five-year unilateral ceasefire in June 2004.

The conflict has claimed more than 30,000 lives since 1984 when the PKK launched an armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.

Source: Xinhua


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