Wednesday, April 04, 2007

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.


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