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DTP mayors face jail over Roj TV letter

A prosecutor in the southeastern Anatolian province of Diyarbakýr asked a court to imprison more than 50 pro-Kurdish mayors for allegedly supporting the outlawed PKK "knowingly and willingly".

DTP mayors face jail over Roj TV letter

A prosecutor in the southeastern Anatolian province of Diyarbakýrasked a court to imprison more than 50 pro-Kurdish mayors on Tuesday forallegedly supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "knowinglyand willingly" by asking Denmark'sprime minister to keep a pro-Kurdish television station -- which Ankara says has links tothe PKK -- on the air.

Prosecutor Muammer Özcan, in his nine-page closing arguments, asked thecourt to sentence 53 mayors to up to 15 years in prison each on charges ofaiding and abetting a terrorist group. The prosecutor asked the court to acquitthree other mayors.

The court adjourned the trial until May 8 at the requestof the defense lawyers for additional time to draw up their final defense. Themayors, who have pleaded innocent and said that their letter was an act of"free speech," are mostly from the pro-Kurdish Democratic SocietyParty (DTP).

The mayors -- including Diyarbakýr Mayor Osman Baydemir; Tunceli MayorSongül Erol Abdil, the sole female provincial mayor in the country, and HakkariMayor Metin Tekçe -- were indicted last year after writing a letter to DanishPrime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asking him to keep Roj TV, which isbanned in Turkey, on the air in Denmark, despite claims by Turkey that it is apropaganda 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 satellitetelephone from their mountain hideouts in northern Iraq and that the stationbroadcasts images of PKK members training or attacking Turkish soldiers.

Mayors who participated in the March 2004 local elections under the umbrellaof the Social Democratic People's Party (SHP) joined the DTP in December 2005in line with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's directives, Özcan also argued.

The DTP is often accused by authorities and mainstream politicians of havinglinks to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and Turkey. On Monday another DTP mayorwas arrested for having allegedly praised PKK members in a public speech. AydýnBudak, mayor of the town of Cizre in Diyarbakýr province,remained in custody pending trial for a speech he made on March 21 during thespring festival of Nevruz. In his speech Budak sent greetings to Öcalan andalleged that millions of Kurds see him as their leader.

Regarding the trial concerning Roj TV, the Justice Ministry last year sent astatement to the court in Diyarbakýr and saidRoj TV was a continuation of Med TV and Medya TV, whose broadcasting licenseswere earlier revoked in Franceand Britainfor being linked to the PKK. The executive chairman of the station is also amember of the executive board of the PKK and its offshoot Kongra-Gel, theministry also said at the time.

Ankara has long been seeking to have Roj TV'sbroadcasting license revoked by Denmark,an EU member.

In November 2005, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan angrily boycotted anews conference with Rasmussen to protest the presence of Roj TV reporters inthe room, but the Danish premier defended their presence by saying there wasextensive freedom of the press in his country.

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