Wednesday, April 04, 2007

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


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