Monday, April 30, 2007



Posted in WOMAN by on the April 30th, 2007

“Those wanting to improve democracy in their countries should not wait for permission.”
~ Bulent Ecevit

More on the attempt to dismiss Abdullah Demirbas and dissolve the Sur Municipality by the Ankara regime, from Peace in Kurdistan Campaign. Keep in mind the usual PR that sells the lie of Turkey easing cultural restrictions on Kurds:

Intense legal and administrative pressure on Sur Municipality and Mayor Abdullah Demirbas!

On January 5, 2007, the Turkish Ministry of the Interior appealed to the State Council for the dismissal of Mayor Demirbas and the dissolution of the Sur Municipal Council due to the municipal council?s decision to provide multilingual municipal services for the local public.

On October 6, 2006, the Sur Municipal council approved a decision to provide multilingual municipal services for the local public.1 The proposal on multilingual municipal services had been referred to the Municipal Council Presidency on September 29, 2006 by the Municipal Directorate of Cultural and Social Affairs,2 upon the evaluation of the public survey results3 which stated that 24% of the local residents spoke Turkish in daily life, 72% spoke Kurdish, 1% spoke Arabic and 3% spoke Syriac and Armenian languages. The proposal was first evaluated at the Municipal Commission on Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism. In the commission?s report dated 06.10.20064, ?the need for a more participatory understanding of municipal service provision? was emphasized. It was stated that ?Surici, our municipal service area, covers the neighborhood wherein majority of the traces belonging to the multireligious and multi-linguistic civilizational heritage in the historic city of Diyarbakir are located?in the light of the scientific data provided [survey results]?in order to provide healthier and better municipal services for the local people and to render educational, cultural and artistic activities locally more accessible?additionally, regarding that the municipal service area is also a touristic site frequently visited by foreign tourists?the proposal for the provision of municipal services in multiple languages hereinafter is determined to be appropriate?. The report was then referred to the Municipal Council, where both the directorate?s proposal and the commission?s report were read, discussed and then approved through a council decision by 17 votes in favor, 7 against and 1 abstention.

According to the registered minutes of the relevant council meeting,5 Mayor of Sur Mr. Abdullah Demirbas stated the following on the aforementioned proposal and the report during the meeting:

?My friends, as you all know, our Municipality is on its way to becoming a touristic city, one of the nominee locations in that sense. Our city, with its 7000 years of history, has hosted many great civilizations in the past. In the current conjuncture, the importance of knowing and speaking multiple languages grows more everyday; and especially for us, the local governments whose duty is to provide services directly to the public, the understanding of multilingual service delivery is even more important. When we look through this perspective, of course our official language is Turkish, nevertheless, I believe that we should not discriminate between our services; and I think that initiating an understanding of multilingual municipal service provision will be beneficial.?

Mayor Demirbas, a teacher himself, is furthermore widely known among the local public for his sensitivity towards educational and cultural issues and for his sincere efforts in the protection and promotion of the rights and lives of children and of the historical, cultural and linguistic richness in his municipal service area. While there are currently two ongoing large-scale EU projects and many small-scale municipal projects towards the renovation and promotion of the multi-ethnic historic and cultural heritage of the Surici district, the Sur Municipality has already pioneered the publication of children?s books and municipal services in multiple languages during the Mayor?s term in office. 6 Furthermore, all these services were met with great public interest and appreciation.

The local, legal and administrative context in which the Ministry of Interior?s action for the dismissal of the Mayor and the dissolution of the Council was taken is very alarming for the local dynamics putting forth effort to promote democracy and cultural freedoms in the region and in Turkey. First of all, to put into practice a form of law enforcement that is fair and impartial and respectful to basic human rights, and one that observes the prevalent values of a society?in short, a form that promotes the rule of law?is one of the basic tenets of good local governance. A very important issue for local democracy is the ?principle of proportionality for any administrative regulation or act imposing a limit on self-government?, stipulated in the Article 8 of Charter.7 As noted previously by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, it is very important to make sure ?that a proper procedure exists, including the rights of the defense, and that careful provision is made in legislation concerning ancillary or principal penalties affecting the actual exercise of elected office?.

According to the existing legislative framework, Ministry of Interior does have the legal right to take an action towards dismissing a locally elected mayor and dissolving the municipal council in certain circumstances. Yet, in a normally or properly working democracy, in the case of a suspected municipal council activity, it is always possible to first initiate a preliminary investigation into the action and proceed through legal and legislative means and ways (e.g. court proceedings), and then consequently to take the action necessitated by the due process. In this case, however, Ministry of Interior directly appealed to the State Council with the inspector?s report, without recourse to the prior legal and legislative process. It should be reminded that in the municipal council?s decision, in accordance with and in limits of the existing law, there is no provision stipulating use of any language other than Turkish in official correspondence.8 Therefore, this issue should be strictly framed through the use and limits of supervisionary powers on the actual exercise of elected office within the context of cultural freedoms.

Overall, the situation facing Mayor Demirbas points to the neglect of the principles of democratization as well as respect for human rights and cultural freedoms that are promoted not only by the European Council but also officially approved by the Turkish government through the European documents such as the Charter of Local Self Government.9 Cases like Mayor Demirbas? are particularly effective in creating an impression of the arbitrary and unproportionate use of supervisionary powers over elected mayors in the region. The most problematic aspect of these files is not simply the existence of a legal basis for such cases or actions, but the lack of constructive and positive reference to the existing laws.

Especially after the enactment of the new Anti-Terror Law in June 2006, the criminalization of the DTP Mayors? legal and democratic demands and actions by associating them with the PKK and separatist tendencies has almost become a regular legal and administrative practice. As clearly seen in the sheer number of investigations and court cases launched against DTP mayors,10 the centralist point of view gradually exerts a greater legal, administrative and psychological pressure over the provision of municipal public service in the region. This situation furthermore contradicts Turkey?s ongoing process of democratization and modernization in the context of negotiations with the EU, rendering the much-touted promotion of local democracy dynamics in the region ineffective and non-existent. Within this context, it should also be kept in mind that these perceptions are grounded in a regional history of previously abolished political parties and dismissed mayors and in the context of the current political tension which has led to the detention and/or arrest of almost 70 high level DTP administrators solely within the last two months.

We call upon the international community to recognize the present legal, administrative and psychological pressure exerted over the DTP mayors and the rising political tension in the region. Strongly believing that this situation can be overcome with proper, effective, efficient and immediate implementation of local democracy and local good governance concepts on the ground, we invite the international community to take immediate and effective action to this end.

1 Municipal Council decision no. 61, dated 06.10.2006.
2 File no. M.21.7.Sur.804/307, dated 29.09.2006.
3 In 2006, in order to analyse and evaluate the needs and the life conditions of the local residents of Surici district, a widely representative public survey was conducted by the Sur Municipality. Survey results were later turned into a book published in 3 languages (Turkish, Kurdish and English).
4 Commission Report dated 06.10.2006, undersigned by the head of the commission and 4 other members.
5 Official Records of the Council Meeting, dated 06.10.2006, undersigned by the Mayor and the two clerks.
6 See Appendix 1 for a list of the activities of the Press Unit of the Sur Municipality.
7 Congress Report on Monitoring the Implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, By Alain DELCAMP, European Local Government Association For Research (ELGAR) Paris
8 Sur Mayor and the Municipal Council are indicted on charges of exceeding the bounds and limits of their duties and authorities, and violating the 3rd and the 42nd Articles of the Constitution, which are respectively on the unity of state, on its official language, flag, national anthem and capital city, and on the rights and duties to education.
9 See Appendix 2 for an exemplary list of investigations and court cases launched against the DTP Mayors related to promotion or use of Kurdish on various occasions. Turkey has neither signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the European Council, of which she is a member, neither the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
10 For example, while Sur Mayor Demirbas has 12 investigations, Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Osman Baydemir has more than 60 investigations and 7 courts cases launched against him during his 3 years term in office (2004-2007)

Appendix 1: Media and Press Activities of the Sur Municipality

1. Publication of a tri-monthly children?s magazine titled ?Semamok?, which has contents both in Turkish and Kurdish. 5000 copies are made and distributed for each issue.

2. Publication and distribution of 8000 copies of a fable in Kurdish.

3. Publication of a book titled ??Games and Handicrafts for Children?? in Turkish and Kurdish, especially regarding the related lack of publications for school age children. Distributed primarily to teachers and parents on the occasion of October 5th Teachers? Day.

4. Publication of 15.000 promotional brochures on the Surici district in 6 languages, still ongoing distribution in Turkey and abroad.

5. Preparation of a promotional movie on Surici district, titled ?A Door of Peoples?? in three languages (Turkish, Kurdish and English), and its ongoing distribution to local, national and international institutions.

6. Preparation, publication and distribution of the municipal activity and service report for two years in Kurdish and Turkish (2000 copies).

7. Preparation, publication and distribution of a CD on the municipal activity and service report for the two years in Turkish, Kurdish and English (2000 copies).

8. Preparation of the municipal public survey on needs and life conditions of the local residents for publication into a book in 3 languages (Turkish, Kurdish and English); distribution of the 2000 published copies to relevant institutions.

9. Organization of the reception held to launch the first computer operation system in Kurdish, Linux Ubuntu; distribution of 1000 Ubuntu software CDs free of charge; publication of 2000 more copies due to strong public demand.

10. With the project to publish 12 tales book in Kurdish, under the title ?One tale for each night?, every month 5000 copies of one tales book will be published and distributed to children and parents. The first of these books will be published this month.

Appendix 2: Some of investigations and court cases launched against the DTP Mayors related to promotion or use of Kurdish on various occasions

* On March 20, 2006, a case was filed against Mayor Demirbas on the grounds of ?making propaganda to promote the aims of the terrorist organization PKK? due to his speech titled, ?Municipal Services and Local Governments in the light of Multilingualism?, which was delivered at the European Social Forum in January 2006. Although the content of the speech, very well summarized by its title, did not include any single direct or indirect reference to the PKK, as was also later affirmed by the court; the very fact that the speech aimed to explore the relations between multilingualism and local democracy and that it was delivered by a DTP Mayor was enough to render it as a form of ?PKK propaganda? in the eyes of central government authorities. Mayor Demirbas was acquitted from all charges on September 19, 2006. Public prosecutor?s consequent appeal to the Supreme Court is still in process.

* On February 7, 2007, following the release of the Kurdish translation of Ubuntu, a free software program available in 167 languages, with the support of Sur Municipality, an investigation was launched against Mayor Demirbas and three municipal administrators on charges of ?misuse of municipal resources?.

* On October 10, 2006, Ministry of Interior launched an investigation against Mayor Demirbas due to the children?s games and handicrafts book published by the Sur Municipality. The children?s book, which was written in both Turkish and Kurdish, was published on the occasion of Teacher?s Day.

* In March 2006 an investigation was launched against Mayor Demirbas due to his use Kurdish in his speeches during a wedding ceremony in Diyarbakir.

* On April 19, 2007, Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality, will appear before the court on charges of violating the law that obliges state agencies, civic groups and private institutions to use Turkish letters. Mayor Baydemir risks 6 to 12 months of imprisonment for using the Kurdish letter ?w? in his greetings cards of New Year?s Day. The letter ?w?, which exists in the Kurdish alphabet, does not exist in Turkish.

* On April 2, 2007, 56 DTP mayors will appear before court on charges of ?abetting and aiding an armed organization? due to their joint letter sent to the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen concerning the possible closing of Roj TV. Mayors face the risk of 7.5 to 15 years of imprisonment. Currently, local TV stations are permitted to broadcast in Kurdish at most for 45 minutes a day and 5 hours a week in total. In terms of the content, programs are restricted to address only the audience group of adults, and broadcast of language training programs is strictly banned. In terms of the actual broadcast process, TV stations are stipulated to undertake such programming only with the condition of either providing a simultaneous Turkish translation or subtitling during the broadcast or broadcasting the same program in Turkish language immediately after the original broadcast.

* On March 5, 2007, Ministry of Interior sent inspectors to Diyarbakir for a preliminary investigation against Democratic Society Party mayors due to the Newroz invitation cards published in Kurdish and sent to the officials in Turkey.

* In March 2007, a preliminary investigation was launched against Mayor Baydemir due to the publication of public brochures on health and cleanliness in Kurdish and Turkish for local people.

* In March 2007, a preliminary investigation was launched against Mayor Baydemir due to the baby names? book published in Kurdish.

* On January 17, 2007, an investigation was launched against Mayor Osman Baydemir due to the invitation cards sent to the officials in Turkey. The invitation cards, which were written in both Turkish and Kurdish, were sent on the occasion of the 6th Culture and Arts Festival in Diyarbakir.

* On January 12, 2007, a preliminary investigation was launched against Mayor Osman Baydemir due to the website of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality, which is in Turkish, Kurdish and English.

* With an investigation filed on July 8, 2006, Viransehir Mayor Emrullah Cin was indicted on charges of ?misuse of municipal resources? due to publication of bulletins about municipal services both in Turkish and Kurdish. Mayor Cin stated that Kurdish was the mother tongue of the majority of the Viransehir?s population (app. 120.000), thus, in publishing bulletins also in Kurdish, the municipality aimed to better communicate municipal services to the public. Mayor Cin further noted that publication of municipal bulletins was not considered a crime anywhere in Turkey, and that the decision for publication was made by the municipal council and in accordance with the municipal law, and, furthermore, that the RTUK (Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey) laws also did not consider publication of such bulletins as a criminal activity, thus municipality acted fully in accordance with and in the limits of existing laws.

* On October 20, 2006, a preliminary investigation was launched against Kayapinar Mayor Zulkuf Karatekin due to the provision ‘Municipalities take the necessary precautions to teach their personnel Kurdish in order for them to better communicate with the public? stated in the collective agreement between the municipalities and the Union of Municipal and Local Governments Services Workers.

* Kayapinar Municipal Council?s efforts to give culturally significant Kurdish names to the parks and streets of Diyarbakir were obstructed by the Diyarbakir Governorship because these names were said to either include letters that did not exist in the Turkish alphabet (e.g. ?w?) or showed parallelism with socially discriminating, separatist discourses. The court case filed by the Kayapinar City Council against the Diyarbakir Governorship is still in process.

* There are investigations against Diyarbakir Metropolitan, Kiziltepe, Sur and Silvan Municipalities opened solely for the use of Kurdish language in public speeches.
ed in WOMAN by on the April 30th, 2007

Posted in WOMAN by on the April 29th, 2007

“Turkey’s democracy is an important example for the people in the broader Middle East, and I want to thank you for your leadership.”
~ George W. Bush to R. Tayyip Erdogan, June, 2005.

Mayors from Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region walk towards the courthouse to attend their trial in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir September 26, 2006. REUTERS.
56 Kurdish mayors of the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (DTP) went on trial today in Amed, Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, for writing a letter to Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in order to urge Denmark’s continued support for the right of free expression and for the continued broadcasting of Roj TV from Denmark.

Let’s review. Here’s the letter and the names of all the mayors who signed it:

His Excellency Anders Fogh Rasmussen
DiyarbakIr, December 27, 2005
Dear Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

This letter is to express our concerns about the ongoing debates and developments around the situation of ROJ TV. As the members of Democratic Society Party (DTP) who are mayors of 56 municipalities located predominantly in the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey, we are worried about the anti-democratic approaches through which the case of ROJ TV is being handled by Turkish government in the international arena. Unfortunately, we observe that there still exists a fundamental difference between Turkey and the European civilization in matters of freedom of press and expression.

That the ROJ TV broadcasts are aired from Europe is a disturbing fact for us, too. This has been a direct consequence of the constitutional and legal regulations that do not allow for free Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey. It was only thanks to the pressures in the process of Turkey’s integration with the EU that Turkey has granted limited rights for Kurdish language broadcasts, with state television airing 45-minute programmes on a weekly basis. Privately-owned local television stations wanting to broadcast in Kurdish, on the other hand, are still faced with legal and often arbitrary administrative obstacles. As it also well-known by the international community, restrictions on freedom of expression are situated at the heart of the authoritarian political tradition that has repressed any kind of difference in terms of culture, language and identity in Turkey.

We expect the Turkish government to abide by and fulfill the political criteria stated in the Copenhagen Document. So, rather than banning the ROJ TV, we hope that Turkey will eventually legalize, embrace and become a constituent of the voice of ROJ TV. We wish that one day ROJ TV will be able to broadcast from nowhere else but from Istanbul, Ankara or Diyarbakir, and will be only one among many other Kurdish TV stations that will be launched also with the support of Turkish government.

It is a well-known fact that ROJ TV has millions of audiences within and outside Turkey. Whether one agrees or not with the broadcasting policy of the TV station, the content and arguments of its programs, is something to be discussed, and should always be discussed given the fact that free flow of information and ideas is the lifeblood of political debates. But the banning of ROJ TV would not contribute to our efforts to create a truly pluralistic and democratic life in Turkey. We believe that, within the current state of politics, voice of ROJ TV represents a constructive and positive contribution towards the progress of freedom of _expression, that is, one of the essential foundations of European democratic civilization that cannot yet be fully guaranteed within Turkey.

For a truly democratic life to flourish in Turkey, ROJ TV should not be silenced. This is the sincere and common demand of the people we represent at the level of local governments. The elimination of the voice of ROJ TV would mean the loss of an important vehicle in the struggle for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms of democratic civilization.

Kind regards,

1- Osman BAYDEMIR Mayor, Diyarbakir Metropolitan President, Union of South-Eastern Anatolia Region Municipalities

2- Husseyin KALKAN Mayor , Batman

3- Ahmet ERTAK Mayor, Sirnak

4- Metin TEKKE Mayor, Hakkari

5- Songol Erol ABDIL Mayor, Tunceli

6- Firat ANLI Mayor, Yenisehir

7-Yurdusev OZSOKMENLER Mayor, Baglar

8-Kutbettin TASKIRAN Mayor, Silvan Bayrambasi

9-Zulfikar KARATEKIN Mayor, KayapInar

10- Nadir BINGOL Mayor, Ergani

11-Abdullah DEMIRBAS Mayor, Surici

12- Sukran AYDIN Mayor, Bismil

13-Fikret KAYA Mayor, Silvan

14-Seyhmus BAYHAN Mayor, Lice

15-Abdullah AKENGIN Mayor, Dicle

16-Mehmet KAYA Mayor, Kocakaya

17-Esat ONER Mayor, Batman Gercus

18-Murat CEYLAN Mayor, Siirt Kurtalan

19-Seyfettin AYDIN Mayor, Siirt Gokbasi

20-Ethem SAHIN Mayor, Urfa Suruc

21-Emrullah CIN Mayor, Viransehir

22-Ismail ARSLAN Mayor, CeylanpInar

23-Huseyin OGRETMEN Mayor, Halfeti

24-Aydin BUDAK Mayor, Cizre

25-Resul SADAK Mayor, Idil

26-Muhsin KONUR Mayor, Silopi

27-Gulcihan SIMSEK Mayor, Van Bostanici

28-Hursit TEKIN Mayor, Semdinli

29-Faik DURSUN Mayor, Beytussebap

30-M.Salih YILDIZ Mayor, Yuksekova

31-Hursit ALTEKIN Mayor, Hakkari Esendere

32-Ayhan ERKMEN Mayor, Mardin Dargecit

33-Cihan SINCAR Mayor, Kiziltepe

34-Molla SIMSEK Mayor, Konya Cihanbeyli Gulyazi

35-Ramazan KAPAN Mayor, Mardin Derik

36- Nuran ATLI Mayor, Mazidagi

37-Mehmet TANHAN Mayor, Nusaybin

38-Ayhan ERKMEN Mayor, Kars Digor Dagpinar

39-M.Selim DEMIR Mayor, Batman Bekirhan

40-A. Kadir AZAOGLU Mayor, Kiziltepe Senyurt

41-A.Kerim ADAN Mayor, Mardin YalImlI

42-Zeyniye ONER Mayor, Savur

43-Demir CELIK Mayor, Mus Varto

44-Tahir KAHRAMANER Mayor, Malazgirt

45-Ali YILDIZ Mayor, Malazgirt

46-Orhan OZER Mayor, BulanIk Gedik

47-Mukaddes KUBILAY Mayor, Dogubeyazit

48- M.Nezir ARAS Mayor, BulanIk

49-Nusret ARAS Mayor, Igdir HoShaber

50- Leyla GUVEN Mayor, Adana Seyhan Kayadikili

51-Muzaffer YONDEMLI Mayor, AydIn Ovaeymir

52-Osman KESER Mayor, Adana YakapInar

53-Hasan KARAKAYA Mayor, Yaylakonak

54-Seyfettin ALKAN Mayor, Batman BalpInar

55- Burhan KORHAN Mayor, Batman Besiri

56- Fahrettin ASLAN Mayor, Besiri

The Turkish state is against everything the mayors said in that letter. Let’s not forget, either, that the mayors are representing their people, so this letter is a representation of the will of the Kurdish people.

A report on the opening of the trial can be read at the International Herald Tribune. The mayors are standing behind their letter and, if convicted, each one will receive up to 15 years’ imprisonment for aiding a “terrorist” organization. It looks like it’s a good thing there are Danish observers at the trial, because Denmark is the country which has yet to receive any proof from the Ankara regime to prove that Roj TV has any so-called terrorist links–after more than a year of trying.

Part of Turkey’s argument for alleged PKK ties to Roj TV is based on the fact that Roj TV regularly airs interviews with PKK leadership and reports on clashes in the region, but if that meant that Roj TV had ties to PKK, then we could say the same about American TV for all the videos it airs from Osama bin Laden. I won’t go into the fact that the Ankara regime hosts HAMAS delegations in Ankara, even though it’s widely known that HAMAS is on The List?. The US also recently hossted the terrorist leader of the terrorist Iranina state within its borders, as well as the former president of that same terrorist state, Mohammed Khatami.

But what’s a little terrorism among friends, eh?

Further along in the IHT article, we see who’s really in charge of Turkey:

The country’s powerful military is highly suspicious of the Kurdish mayors’ affiliation and is critical of their performance.

Since when is military control of civilian government a democratic mechanism? In democracies, politicians only have to worry if their constituents are critical of their performance or their “affiliations,” but in Bush’s model of democracy, Turkey, politicians have to worry if the Pashas are critical of their performance. Yet, remember, this is America’s model of democracy for the Middle East. Someone should tell them that most Middle Eastern countries are already emulating this model.

Let’s put it this way: For America, talk of democracy is the opiate of the people.

Under our shining Turkish democracy, many of these mayors are also facing charges for other “crimes,” like “violating the right to assembly”:

Baydemir faces other charges, along with DTP leader Ahmet Turk and some 32 civil group heads, for violating the right to assembly.

Diyarbakir police late Sunday filed a complaint against the mayor and those who attended a demonstration to protest the recent bomb attack in Diyarbakir that killed 10 people, including seven children.

The problem here is that there is no right to free assembly in Turkey, which is another reason why I cannot understand people who speak of “democracy,” and “Turkey” in the same breath while maintaining a straight face. The only right to assemble applies to government-sponsored assemblies, which usually deteriorate into lynching parties, while the police stand by and enjoy the show.

Yenisehir mayor, Firat Anli, spoke for his comrades before entering the court, from the AP, carried on the Houston Chronicle:

Appearing before the court in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast, the mayors pleaded innocent to the charges and defended their letter as “free speech.”

“We are standing behind each of the 405 words in our famous letter,” Yenisehir Mayor Firat Anli told the court, reading from the five-page statement. “If examined, our letter points to the need for maturity to tolerate opposition to freedom of speech and the establishment of a democratic living system.”

Who is it, then, who really wants to see democracy in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan? The US? The Ankara regime? The EU? Or these Kurdish mayors?

And what of the EU? They say the situation of human rights in Turkey is regressing:

Turkey can expect to get bad marks for human rights in an upcoming report to be released by the European Parliament, four members of the body’s subcommittee on human rights said yesterday at the conclusion of a fact-finding mission.

[ . . . ]

The impression is that the situation is going backwards, said Italian lawmaker Vittorio Agnoletto, who said he was particularly disturbed by an overwhelming military presence in southeastern Anatolian provinces like Hakkari.

When I was in Hakkari, I felt like I was in a prison, Agnoletto said. It is not possible to consider all the population of a region as terrorists.

So what is the EU doing about it? Nothing, other than the usual hand-wringing and whimpering. And what of the European literati? Who can tell me where all of them are? They always get themselves worked up into a lather over the prosecutions of famous novelists, but where are they now? Where is that same fanatic devotion to the right of freedom of expression for all of these Kurdish mayors, or for the Kurdish people? What about the question of democracy for Western Turkey?

Was that a pin that just dropped?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turkey:Kurdish Parties

Yigal Schleifer
Wednesday 25 April 2007 - 07:20

With parliamentary elections approaching later this year, Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party is finding itself at a crossroads, beset by increasing pressure from both within and without.
In recent weeks, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) has endured a crackdown, with dozens of its top leaders arrested or jailed and several of its offices raided by the police. An Ankara court in February sentenced party co-chairs Aysel Tugluk and Ahmet Turk to 1 1/2 years in prison after DTP workers distributed political pamphlets in the Kurdish language, violating Turkish law. Soon after, Turk was sentenced by another court to an additional six months for "praising" Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the guerrilla Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), by referring to him in a speech as "sayin Ocalan," the equivalent of "Mr. Ocalan" in Turkish. Tugluk and Turk are free pending an appeal.
Local DTP have also been caught up in the crackdown. For example, Metin Tekce, the DTP mayor of the city of Hakkari in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, was sentenced by a court on March 19 to seven years in jail after he said in a press conference that the PKK was not a terrorist group and that he was proud to be Kurdish. "The state is giving us a lot of trouble. They are coming after us systematically," says Osman Keser, the DTP mayor of Yakapinar, a municipal district of Adana, a large city near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
"Anything we say now gets us in trouble," adds the mayor, who is among 56 other DTP mayors currently facing charges for having written an open letter in support of Roj TV, a Kurdish-language satellite network broadcasting out of Denmark. The Turkish government is trying to shut the channel down.
Although not currently in parliament, the DTP remains a powerful force in Turkish politics, particularly in the southeast region, where the party enjoys strong popular support and holds most of the mayoral offices. In recent years, as part of its on-going European Union membership drive, Turkey has relaxed many of its previously stringent laws governing Kurdish political life. But observers believe that the country’s hard-line military and judiciary, which have not been supportive of many of the government’s EU-related reforms, still see the DTP as a threat.
"The crackdown is a process of intimidation and judicial harassment of the party," says Reyhan Yalcindag, vice president of the Human Rights Association, a Turkish watchdog group. "As human rights defenders, we are very concerned."
Meanwhile, the party is facing a growing internal debate about how to best approach the upcoming parliamentary elections in November. The DTP is built on the remains of several outlawed pro-Kurdish political parties, which have not had representation in the Turkish parliament since the early 1990’s. Despite their traditionally strong showing in the southeast, the Kurdish parties have been stymied by Turkey’s high election threshold – the highest in Europe – that requires that a party receive at least 10 percent of the national vote to gain representation. In Turkey’s last election, in 2002, DTP’s predecessor received 6 percent of the vote, sweeping most of the voting districts in the southeast.
Turkey introduced the threshold as a way of keeping small parties out of parliament, which often led to the country being governed by fractious and unstable coalitions. But Kurdish politicians claim that the high threshold – the European average is closer to 5 percent – is meant specifically to keep a Kurdish political party out of parliament. For example, during the 2002 election, DTP’s predecessor, the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), won 56 percent of votes in the southeastern Diyarbakir Region, which meant it would have gained seven of the 10 seats reserved for area. But since only the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) passed the national threshold, the AKP got 8 of the seats with only 16 percent of the local vote, and the CHP got two with 6 percent. (A January ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, while noting that the threshold law results in unfair representation, concluded the law did not deprive voters of their rights).
Recent polls have shown the DTP winning just over 5 percent of the vote in the upcoming election, which would mean that it again would be shut out of parliament. This led to discussions within the party about running a campaign made up of independent candidates, who are not subject to the threshold law.
Analysts believe the party could place between 15 and 20 candidates in parliament if it followed that strategy. The chief concern is that the party might lose control over any independents who might get elected. "My feeling is that the real challenge in Kurdish politics within Turkey today is to find a sensible, moderate group of elites that are wiling to play the democratic game, which is to deliver services – either material or immaterial – to their constituency, in return for votes," says Ali Carkoglu, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Sabanci University and an expert on Turkish elections.
"So far, they are not allowed to do that, mostly because of pressure is coming from the security forces in the country [that] see a risk in having some representation of Kurds in the parliament," Carkoglu added.
Enhancing the DTP’s challenges is the fact that the ruling party, the liberal Islamist AKP, has been making inroads in the southeast. The region is one of Turkey’s more conservative areas, both socially and religiously, and the AKP has been able to present itself as a viable option to the Kurdish parties. Several of the party’s parliamentarians are Kurdish, most notably the minister of interior, Abdulkadir Aksu, which has helped the party make the claim that Kurds are part of the political system.
But critics say that the Kurds currently in parliament are little more than window dressing, unable to promote Kurdish interests once they get to Ankara. "The Kurds want to have a party that will bring their needs to the national agenda," says Dilek Kurban, a researcher with the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, an Istanbul-based think tank. "The current system allows those who get very few votes to go to Ankara and ‘represent’ the Kurds, and that only widens the gulf between Ankara and the Kurds."
Adds Kurban: "It has a cost for Turkey’s democratization and pluralism and it serves to alienate a large segment of the population."
Editor’s Note: Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul.
Turquie Européenne 25/04/2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Danish resistance,Turkish anger in row over ROJ TV

News Diplomacy

Danish resistance, Turkish anger in row over Roj TV
A major crisis is likely to soon erupt over the refusal of Danish authorities to revoke the broadcasting license of Roj TV -- the Denmark-based TV network - despite insistent efforts on the part of Ankara towards that goal.
In response to diplomatic pressure from Turkey, the Danish government, citing broadcasting principles, has refused to sign the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and has also rejected Turkey's offer to sign a bilateral agreement on trans-border broadcasting. Although it is possible to shut down Roj TV through a bilateral agreement between the two countries, recent information reveals that the Danish government has long been ignoring Turkey's proposal.
In November 2005 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan angrily boycotted a news conference with Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen to protest the presence of Roj TV reporters in the room, but the Danish premier defended their presence, saying there was extensive freedom of the press in his country. While Turkey's diplomatic act to make a point about the PKK's European arms was well received in Germany, the UK and France at certain points, Denmark has been resisting making any move in response to demands made by Turkey.
RTÜK: Nothing we can do
The Roj TV crisis between Turkey and Denmark is going deeper, according to head of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) Zahit Akman, who replied to a question on the subject raised by Republican People's Party's (CHP) Ordu deputy Sami Tandoğdu. Akman stated that Roj TV was an international broadcasting agency, which means that the procedure to ban Roj TV broadcasts and enforce penalties has to be done according to international law. "Roj TV broadcasts from Denmark, and its broadcasting license is also from Denmark. Since Denmark is not a party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, launching an initiative to stop Roj TV broadcasts under the provisions of that agreement is out of question."
Akman also stressed that Denmark has rejected all proposals from Turkey to sign a bilateral agreement on transfrontier broadcasts. "The European Convention on Transfrontier Television regulates transborder TV broadcasts across Europe. The right to broadcasting and broadcast-relay of any television station cannot be restricted unless one of the conditions violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The convention on transfrontier television authorizes states to decide on the limits of the freedom to broadcast. A provision in the convention stipulates that freedom of expression and the freedom to news and information can be utilized only within certain conditions and restrictions."
Following Akman's reply, the CHP's Tandoğdu criticized Denmark for being two-faced. "The definition of terrorism, and the treatment of terrorism by European countries that speak of human rights and freedom of opportunity, is nothing but hypocrisy. Europe continues to pay lip service to terrorists. Only when terrorism hits them, they know very well to suspend human rights and freedoms if required. Denmark's refusal to sign the Convention on Transfrontier Television in spite of the fact that all countries have done so is not something that we can explain by goodwill. Countries that have a two-faced treatment of terrorism will pay for that eventually. Freedom to broadcast cannot be an excuse to allow Roj TV broadcasting. Denmark should change this attitude immediately."

Government tries to block pro-Kurdish Television Channel

International Freedom of Expression eXchange
Government tries to block pro-Kurdish television channel; 56 mayors face prosecution for opposing these efforts
Country/Topic: Turkey
Date: 09 April 2007
Source: IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) Person(s): Target(s): television station(s) Type(s) of violation(s): harassed Urgency: Threat
(BIANET/IFEX) - Fifty-six mayors, most of them members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), are being prosecuted for sending a joint letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urging that he reject Turkey's efforts to close down pro-Kurdish satellite television channel Roj TV. They face possible punishments of up to 15 years' imprisonment.
Fifty-four of the defendants are members to the DTP, while two are members of the Social Democratic People's Party (SHP). They are accused of "voluntarily aiding and assisting a terrorist organization" with reference to articles 314/3 and 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code.
If convicted, they face from 7.5 to 15 years in prison. The public prosecutor has urged for the acquittal of three among them.
During the hearing, defense lawyers demanded further time for preparation. The court accepted the demand and delayed the trial to 8 May 2007 for the last statements.
The Office of the Public Prosecutor of Diyarbakir launched an investigation into the channel on 2 January 2006. It concluded that Roj TV broadcasts propaganda about the illegal Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK).
Turkey has been long trying to interrupt Roj TV's broadcasts by pressuring European states in which the station bases its studios and transmitters.
For further information contact Nadire Mater at BIANET, Faikpaşa Yokusu, No. 41, Antikhane, Kat: 3, D.8-9, Cukurcuma, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey, tel: +90 212 251 1503, fax: +90 212 251 1609, e-mail:, Internet:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The statement of the DTP mayors to the Diyarbakir court in defense of their letter, written in support of ROJ TV

(All emphasis in the original). 26.09.2006

Dear President, Honorable Members of the Court:

The indictment submitted to the court by the Prosecutor is worth considering on many grounds. At the outset, we expect the honorable Court to evaluate our words within the framework of the inviolability of the right to defense. The indictment is far from being a document of law. It is a sensational product of the socio-political process in which it was prepared and carries rather the quality of a report of complaint concluded by Inspectors of the Ministry of Interior. Furthermore, it is full of internal contradictions. In brief, the indictment constitutes an unfortunate error.
Dear President, the demands for the closing-off of the Roj TV station, the necessity felt by 56 Mayors to write a letter to the Danish Prime Minister Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the tragicomic trial today of over 50 Mayors with the demand of fifteen-year-long imprisonment sentence for each is one consequence of the anti-democratic attitudes towards the Kurdish question. However, unlike what the office of the Prosecutor has done, we shall not raise details of the Kurdish question before the Court today.
The Prosecutor asks for a total of 840 year-long imprisonment sentence for crimes we allegedly have committed in our 405-word-long letter. With a rough calculation, each word corresponds to over two years of imprisonment sentence. The indictment associates our letter with the overall political process that has evolved since the foundation of the PKK Kongra-Gel, and claims that our act of writing the latter constitutes a "conscious and intentional support for the "Organization". With such features, the indictment provides a fertile ground for political polemics. Without entering into any polemics, we reject the indictment and disclaim the accusations raised against us.
We, however, claim hereby each of the 405 words of our famous letter and repeat the opinions we thereby expressed. Serious consideration of our letter shows that rather than simply claiming a certain TV station, it advocates respect towards freedom of thought and expression for the institution of a democratic life and a matured tolerance towards voices of dissent. That opinions expressed within such a letter have been made the subject of a trial process is but tragicomic.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Abdullah Gul had stated the following on 25 December 2006 : "Those who claim that prohibitions by law still exist shall see when the verdicts are released that this is not true. Journalists used to be imprisoned for what they would write, and mayors for their poems. These are now a thing of the past" (The Daily Radikal). We did not chant any poems, but penned a letter that expressed the demands of the people whom we represent. Therefore, we are brought before the Court today.
Dear President, Honorable Members of the Court,
We would like to draw your attention to the last months of the year 2005. We decided to appeal to the Danish Prime Minister Mr. Rasmussen by a letter at a critical juncture of the Turkish-European Union relations. On the one hand, those who oppose Turkey's entry into the European Union had intensified their corresponding endeavors, on the other hand, the positive atmosphere that followed the speech the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan gave in Diyarbakir on the Kurdish question in August 2005 had completely dissipated. The Semdinli Events of November 2005 and the new Alti-Terror Bill had created intense contentions. In December, the Orhan Pamuk case intensified discussions within both the government ranks and between the government and the opposition parties over Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC). The National Security Council was expected to convene on 29 December within this context.
In addition, discussions over supra-identity/sub-identity put forward by Prime Minister Erdogan were heavily criticized by both the General Staff and the President of the Republic. All these processes increased and intensified concerns over a democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish Question. Debates over the closing-off of the Roj TV station entered into the agenda amidst such tension and as a much discussed element of the cultural rights of Kurds. While the political atmosphere was getting ever tense countrywide, people in the region whom we represent as local governors were expressing their deep concerns and worries about the possible closing-off of the Roj TV. In response to such demands of our citizens to make use of their cultural and democratic rights and relying on the civic principles of freedom of expression and freedom, we decided to write a letter as local representatives.Driving our action was to help Turkey to overcome the narrow-minded and prohibitive attitudes towards the issue of cultural rights in its progress towards universal principles of the democratic civilization, and to achieve responsiveness to the demands and expectations of the people whom we represent. As you may know, the Roj TV station has an extensive audience in our region.
The Roj TV trial process started when the central government chose to dismiss democratic demands and authorize the Ministry of Interior for investigation. The indictment is based on reports prepared by Inspectors with the Ministry of Interior beyond the powers and duties conferred onto them by law. That is why this trial lacks a legal ground. Moreover, the issues that we raised in the letter had been conveyed both to the government and to other relevant political and administrative authorities in written reports that we prepared in the recent past. The views that had not constituted any crime then are now evidenced as reasons for the indictment of dozens of mayors.
We deem this trial to be an unfortunate result of the political process that required us to pen it in the first place. As the indictment also concedes, our letter has a squarely democratic content and is free of any elements of crime. During the same week that we sent our letter, 169 intellectuals of Turkey issued a declaration in demand for the abolishment of Article 301 of the TPC. In the same days, the Public Prosecutor of Beyoglu initiated an investigation against Joost Lagendijk concerning articles 301 and 288 of the TPC. We would like to suggest that the tense political atmosphere that we briefly mentioned above forms the contextual background of demands for the closing-off of the Roj TV, our letter regarding the issue, and its criminalization through a trial process. We believe that our letter should have opened the way for the furthering of democratic debates and openings instead of being made the subject of a trial process. It should have facilitated a process of hope, trust and mutual understanding that our society needs urgently.
Dear President, Honorable Members of the Court,
Since the Prosecutor refers to cultural rights in the indictment, we find it necessary to briefly express our opinions on the issue of cultural rights in Turkey. Bans on the right to exercise one's cultural rights for Turkish citizens of non-Turkish ethnicity are coeval with the foundation of the Republic. A review of the 1982 Constitution alone shows that the Kurdish citizens of the Turkish Republic have been constitutionally barred from exercising their many basic human and cultural rights during the last 25 years. The recognition of the "Kurdish reality" in 1991 by the then President Suleyman Demirel had relatively eased obstacles in front of the use of Kurdish language in daily interactions and in arts and cultural production. The Sixth and Seventh Harmonization Packages passed by the Parliament as part of Turkey's accession to the EU facilitated broadcasting in two Kurdish dialects for the first time in the Republican history. We declared on several occasions our deep regard for and appreciation of such democratic openings within the realm of cultural rights, and emphasized that these efforts should be supported by further reforms that would make it possible for all citizens of the Turkish Republic to fully enjoy their cultural rights. Such reforms should have been realized in response to the sincere demands and expectations raised by Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin and not due to pressures from the EU. We believe that the path for the achievement of social peace and sustainable development in Turkey and the institution of a dignified Turkish foreign policy would be possible if only Turkish citizens of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds who have heretofore been barred from enjoying their basic rights are guaranteed their rights and conditions are provided to facilitate their effective participation in the process of democratic governance.
In very recent past people were sued for having Kurdish names. Some were tried in these courtrooms for using the letter "W". As the Prime Minister had also acknowledged in his Diyarbakir speech of August 2005, the state had committed errors due to certain taboo issues. Looking at the past, we can easily say that some taboos have been breached for good. We hope that this trial contributes to the overcoming of other taboos and fears.
Reforms passed within the framework of Turkey-EU relations are of partial nature. Yet the rights that they guarantee are circumscribed to an even narrower scope with administrative statues and in practice. Within the realm of cultural rights, democratic campaigns run and petitions signed in demand for elective Kurdish language classes and for the making of Kurdish an instruction language at primary schools were met with harsh reactions by the state and government bodies. Serious limits to radio and television broadcasting are still in force. Both the applications for broadcasting licenses and conditions of broadcasting are subject to seriously narrow conditionalities. While the limits on duration of programs in the cultural field such as music and cinema were abolished, those imposed on duration of news and discussion programs are still in force. Radio programs are limited to 5 hours per week with no more than one-hour-long daily broadcast, and television programs are limited to 4 hours per week with at most 45 minutes-long broadcasting per day. Serious limits are imposed on program contents. For example, only those programs that address adult audience are permitted, while programs that might contribute to language training, including cartoons, are administratively sanctioned. The general broadcasting statue requires that the programs should be broadcasted either with simultaneous Turkish subtitles or be followed immediately by Turkish versions. This arrangement makes live broadcasting in languages other than Turkish impossible and necessitates at least two days of preparation for a 45 minutes-long program. We hold that such practices that openly contravene the universal principles of democratic civilization and that may at best be described a tragicomic are ill suited for a Turkey in the 21st century.
Dear President, Honorable Members of the Court,
The indictment, using within the say of a contradiction between our letter and the initiatives of Mr.Prime Minister and government policies, violate legal terminology and the conventions of courtesy. The letter in question was penned so as to express the demands and opinions of our people and giving no base for any extremity. It was framed with a full consciousness of democratic responsibility, and, hence, has the quality to offer a framework for the solution of the problems related to the issue of cultural rights. In fact, within a democratic state of law, Mayors have the right, just like any other citizen or group of citizens, to deviate from the government policies. Where there is any such requirement that citizens have to submit to government policies, than that regime can be called anything but democracy. We do not have any aim other than expressing the thoughts that we deem right and fair. As responsible citizens and administrators, we shall continue to express our thoughts and share our opinions on matters that would facilitate the democratic and peaceful solution of the problems of the people whom we represent. We exercised our right to freedom of expression that has been expressed in universal human rights documents and the Turkish national Acquis. We are before the court for having exercised this right. While we intended by way of this letter to draw attention to the inviolability of the freedom of expression, to the impending necessity of promoting a culture of tolerance towards difference, in brief to the value of freedom of thought and democratic participation, we found ourselves criminals of expression. It is impossible in this regard to make sense of the confusions the indictment presents itself with. The indictment both states that the content of the text does not constitute a crime, and it wants 840-year-long imprisonment sentence for us, the defendants. As such the document pushes the limits of law to an extreme. We shall not ask the claimants be suspended or barred from duty, as it is sometimes the case with other trials. Yet we do ask this case be dropped. This case unfortunately shows that we have yet a lot to achieve for bringing our country to the consciousness of the rights and freedoms of the democratic civilization. Within this larger context, we see this indictment that raises unfair and baseless accusations against us as an instance of intolerance towards democratic rights and freedoms. We firmly believe that this honorable court shall restore justice by bringing this infringement on our rights to an end and protect the freedom of thought which forms the basis of all other rights and freedoms in a democratic country.
4. In conclusion;
As stated in our letter, we hold that the prohibitive and restrictive view towards cultural rights in general, and the Kurdish written and visual media in particular, should be superseded and that a more embracing and inclusive approach that listens to popular demands and claims fundamental rights and freedoms should prevail in our country.
The problem cannot be solved by the closing-off of the Roj TV station. As the indictment also mentions, other Kurdish broadcasting stations that operated abroad had been closed-off before the Roj TV was established. This means that darkening the screens is no solution. On the contrary, the solution of our problems requires that Kurdish-language programs be produced and disseminated within this ancient land that we inhabit without being hindered by law or by administrative measures. The solution of our problems would be enabled by the airing of such broadcasts from Istanbul, Ankara or Diyarbakir .
Our people sincerely demand that Kurdish language and culture which have long-been neglected and subjected to discriminatory practices be supported and encouraged by the State institutions. As the Prime Minister himself stated, this is the only way to redress the historical wrongs done to the Kurdish language and culture.
No television or radio station should be banned or shut down. No letters, no books, no poems, no cartoons, no movies should be punished. The punishment of peaceful products of humanity is the heaviest blow against democratic values.
Legal bans and administrative limits imposed upon the length and content of radio and television broadcasts should be abolished. One does not need to agree with the content of the programs. Yet the closing-off of an entire broadcasting station is something that we need to stand against according to the principles of democratic culture.
Enjoying the right to freely express one's thoughts is a sine qua non of democratic deliberation. What we call democratic culture flourishes upon mutual understanding and tolerance. Bans on the freedom of expression constitute the biggest obstacles before establishing a culture of democracy and devising means for a peaceful solution of our problems. We have but to overcome this obstacle.
The labeling of our most democratic demands as "terrorism" and the criminalization of our democratic and peaceful demands and actions with purely political decisions deepens the crisis of trust between the State and citizens of Kurdish origin. The restoration of a bridge of trust between the two shall be possible only insofar as the State responds to people's demands and takes necessary steps for their realization.
Albeit limited, the State institutions and Government authorities have so far realized significant reforms. Our endeavor is to integrate the demands of citizens for rights and freedoms into the ongoing process of democratization in our country, to complete the democratic reform process altogether and powerfully, and to take Turkey to the level of democratic civilization which it deserves.
We hope that the result of this trial that convened us here today beyond the limits of law and as a byproduct of the political atmosphere and the rising nationalist climate that surrounds our country shall in effect contribute to the democratic reform process.
Respectfully yours,

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Turkish prosecutor demands up to 15 years' imprisonment for dozens of Kurdish mayors

The Associated Press
ANKARA, Turkey: A Turkish prosecutor on Tuesday asked a court to imprison more than 50 Kurdish mayors for allegedly supporting a separatist Kurdish guerrilla group by asking Denmark's prime minister to keep a Kurdish television station on the air.
The prosecutor in his closing arguments asked the court in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, to sentence 53 mayors to up to 15 years each on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist group. The prosecutor asked the court to acquit three other mayors.
The court adjourned the trial until May 8 at the request of the defense.
The mayors have pleaded innocent and say that their letter was an act of "free speech." The trial is seen as the latest test of freedom of speech in Turkey, which has been under pressure from the European Union to strengthen the rights of its Kurdish minority and eliminate limits on free speech.
The mayors, mostly from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party. were indicted last year after writing a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking him to keep the Roj TV station, which is banned in Turkey, on the air in Denmark , despite claims by Turkey that it is a propaganda machine of the rebel group Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

Penalty for eight centuries to 53 governors

SABAH Newspaper

At the action of "do not block out ROJ TV", a penalty of five year each was requested for 53 governors from DTP (Democratic Society Party).
The prosecutor Özcan at the action in Diyarbakır accused the governors from DTP (Democratic Society Party) that sent letter to the Prime Minister of Denmark in order for ROJ TV not to be blocked out, of supporting the terrorist organization PKK.
Sentence for 800 years to the 53 governors from DTP
56 governors from DTP (Democratic Society Party) tried for sending a letter to the Prime Minister of Denmark in order for ROJ TV not to be blocked out and a sentence of imprisonment for 15 years for each governor is demanded.
The prosecutor read his deliberated opinion about 56 governors from DTP (Democratic Society Party) tried for sending a letter to the Prime Minister of Denmark in order for ROJ TV not to be blocked out and demanded a sentence of imprisonment for 15 years for 53 governors and acquittal of three governors.
The public prosecutor emphasized Roj TV received satellite broadcast license from Denmark and conducted broadcast in line with the targets of terrorist organization PKK.

Prosecutor seeks 15 years in prison for DTP mayors

The New Anatolian / Ankara 04 April 2007

Prosecutors yesterday asked a Diyarbakir court to give 15 years behind bars for all 53 mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on trial for a letter supporting a Danish-based, pro-terrorism broadcaster as well as to acquit three other DTP mayors.
None of the 56 mayors was present at yesterday's hearing. The defendants, including Diyarbakir Greater Municipality Mayor Osman Baydemir, Batman Municipality Mayor Huseyin Kalkan, Sirnak Municipality Mayor Ahmet Ertak, Tunceli Municipality Mayor Songul Erol Abdil and Hakkari Municipality Mayor Metin Tekci, are on trial on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist group.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Muammer Ozcan said that Danish-based Roj-TV is spotlighting the Kurdish group's activities on its news shows while its discussion programs show top their representatives. "Keeping in mind that this channel is broadcasting the views and latest strategies of the group, it is clear that Roj-TV is linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the channel was used according to the needs and desires of the Kurdish group," he continued.
Ozcan also claimed that except Hasan Karakaya, all the defendants were candidates in the March 2004 local elections from the DTP at the direct order of imprisoned terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The mayors have pleaded innocent and say that their letter was an act of "free speech." The trial is seen as the latest test of freedom of speech in Turkey, which has been under pressure from the European Union to strengthen the rights of its Kurdish minority and eliminate limits on free speech.
In 2005 the issue of closing Roj-TV 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.
The 56 DTP mayors in question wrote to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December 2005 asking him to keep 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 terrorist organization.
The PKK has been listed by the European Union and the United States as 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.
The court adjourned the trial until May 8 at the request of the defense.

Dozens of DTP mayors face jail over Roj TV letter

A prosecutor in the southeastern Anatolian province of Diyarbakır asked a court to imprison more than 50 pro-Kurdish mayors on Tuesday for allegedly supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "knowingly and willingly" by asking Denmark's prime minister to keep a pro-Kurdish television station -- which Ankara says has links to the PKK -- on the air.
Prosecutor Muammer Özcan, in his nine-page closing arguments, asked the court to sentence 53 mayors to up to 15 years in prison each on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist group. The prosecutor asked the court to acquit three other mayors.
The court adjourned the trial until May 8 at the request of the defense lawyers for additional time to draw up their final defense. The mayors, who have pleaded innocent and said that their letter was an act of "free speech," are mostly from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP).
The mayors -- including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir; Tunceli Mayor Songül Erol Abdil, the sole female provincial mayor in the country, and Hakkari Mayor Metin Tekçe -- were indicted last year after writing a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asking him to keep Roj TV, which is banned in Turkey, on the air in Denmark, despite claims by Turkey that it is a propaganda machine of the PKK.
None of the mayors charged were present at Tuesday's trial.
Özcan said that PKK leaders often join the station's broadcasts by satellite telephone from their mountain hideouts in northern Iraq and that the station broadcasts images of PKK members training or attacking Turkish soldiers.
Mayors who participated in the March 2004 local elections under the umbrella of the Social Democratic People's Party (SHP) joined the DTP in December 2005 in line with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's directives, Özcan also argued.
The DTP is often accused by authorities and mainstream politicians of having links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and Turkey. On Monday another DTP mayor was arrested for having allegedly praised PKK members in a public speech. Aydın Budak, mayor of the town of Cizre in Diyarbakır province, remained in custody pending trial for a speech he made on March 21 during the spring festival of Nevruz. In his speech Budak sent greetings to Öcalan and alleged that millions of Kurds see him as their leader.
Regarding the trial concerning Roj TV, the Justice Ministry last year sent a statement to the court in Diyarbakır and 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 to the PKK. The executive chairman of the station is also a member of the executive board of the PKK and its offshoot Kongra-Gel, the ministry also said at the time.
Ankara has long been seeking to have Roj TV's broadcasting license revoked by Denmark, an EU member.
In November 2005, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan angrily boycotted a news conference with Rasmussen to protest the presence of Roj TV reporters in the room, but the Danish premier defended their presence by saying there was extensive freedom of the press in his country.

Today's Zaman 04.04.2007