56 Mayors Risk Jail in Turkey over Letter to Danish PM

DIYARBAKIR (AFP)–Fifty-six Kurdish Mayors risk up to 10 years in jail for signing a letter urging Denmark’s Prime Minister to ignore Turkey’s calls to ban a Kurdish television station with alleged links to terrorism–judicial sources said Tuesday.

In an indictment filed with a court in Diyarbakir–the central city of the mainly Kurdish southeast–the prosecution charged that the December 27 letter to Anders Fogh Rasmussen amounted to "knowingly and willingly supporting" the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey says that Denmark-based Roj TV is a mouthpiece of the PKK–considered to be a terrorist group by Ankara–the European Union–and the United States–and has long urged Copenhagen to take it off the air.

The charge sheet says that Roj TV often hosts PKK leaders–carries PKK statemen’s inciting violence–and follows a broadcasting policy "in line with PKK propaganda."

It was not immediately clear when the trial will start.

Among the 56 accused is Osman Baydemir–one of Turkey’s most popular Kurdish politicians and mayor of Diyabakir.

The overwhelming majority of the mayors belong to the Democratic Society Party (DTP)–the main Kurdish political movement in the country.

Kurdish politicians are routinely suspected by Ankara of supporting the PKK and are often prosecuted for alleged links to the group–which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast since 1984.

Two of the mayors–who belong to a small center-left party–have disowned their signatures in the letter–but the prosecution said they should still stand trial.

The letter states that silencing Roj TV "would mean the loss of an important vehicle in the struggle for democracy and human rights" in Turkey.

The station has become a thorn in the side of Turkish-Danish relations.

During a visit to Copenhagen last November–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a joint news conference with Rasmussen after the latter rejected his request that a Roj TV reporter be barred from entry.

Danish authorities said last year that Roj TV’s programming contained no incitement to hatred of Turkey–and that there was no proof it was linked to the PKK.


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