Ankara has welcomed a decision by a Danish court to sentence Roj TV, a Kurdish-language channel, and its parent company to 5.2 million Danish kroner for disseminating terrorist propaganda, but expressed the hope that the decision will lead to the closure of the station now that it has been convicted of acting as the mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
A long-awaited decision on the case against Roj TV on charges of ties to the PKK and promoting its goals through Europe came on Tuesday, receiving a hats-off from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as well as his ministry for its conviction in line with the prosecutor's allegations. Although the decision laid a heavy fine of around $450,000 on both Roj TV and its owner, Mesopotamia Broadcast, it was still below expectations in Turkey, since it fell short of the closure Turkey was hoping for.
On Wednesday, Davutoğlu phoned his Danish counterpart, Villy Sovndal, telling him that Turkey expects the Danish authorities to close down Roj TV. He reminded Sovndal that Turkey has been told that the issue was now a matter of judicial trial every time it asked Denmark for action against the television channel. Now that the judiciary has made its decision, Turkey has strong expectations that Roj TV will be closed down, Davutoğlu was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as telling Sovndal during the telephone conversation.
Davutoğlu told reporters on Tuesday that it is significant that the Danish court revealed links between the PKK and the TV station, adding that the fine is a clear indication that the court accepts the media organization is disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization. “The decision is the first move that set the conviction. Now we are expecting authorities to act according to the court's decision,” Davutoğlu added, revealing his expectation that the Danish board of radio and television would do what superseded the court's capacity and revoke Roj TV's broadcasting license.
Reaffirming Davutoğlu's words, the Foreign Ministry issued a written announcement on the same day, saying Roj TV was penalized for having ties to the PKK and disseminating the propaganda of and receiving financial assistance from the organization. It added that the decision should therefore “set a precedent in the global fight against terror.”
The ministry added that it was Ankara's expectation of all EU countries “not to permit any media organ to extend support to the activities of the PKK terrorist organization.” Turkey's ambassador to Denmark also welcomed the verdict, but said it was now up to the country's broadcasting board to ban it.
On the opposing side, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, who was directly engaged in the trial with frequent visits to Copenhagen, said on Tuesday that the decision was “a misfortune and a gaff” and that the fences it broke would be very hard to mend. “On one hand, the court stressed that Roj TV was disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization but, on the other, the court did not shut Roj TV down. Such a decision is irresponsible. This decision by the Danish court is one that serves terrorism and the terrorist organization,” Bağış said in a written statement, signaling his disappointment with the court's decision falling short of conclusive action.
Bağış's bitter remarks also warned of the possible results of ongoing PKK activity in Denmark, as he said that “more Danish youth will face the risk of being poisoned by illicit drugs sold by the terrorist organization” and that Denmark would be a less secure country with the PKK stationed inside it. Bağış hoped the prosecutor would appeal the decision and that an upper court would correct this, the Anatolia news agency reported. Roj TV's defense attorney also said he would advise his client to appeal the fine, according to Reuters.
After countless complaints and petitions from the Turkish government over a number of years, in August 2010 Denmark's public prosecution filed a court case against Roj TV, charging it with helping to promote the terrorist group. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the European Union.
Roj TV has a Danish broadcasting license but has no studios in Denmark. The station is popular among many of Turkey's estimated 14 million Kurds, a group of whom hailed the decision and floated the idea of raising money to pay the fine, but has drawn Ankara's ire for broadcasting statements by PKK leaders.
Some 300 demonstrators who had gathered in a square near the court started chanting in celebration after the verdict. Roj TV manager İmdat Yılmaz told The Associated Press he was satisfied with the ruling. “We got a huge fine but the most important [thing] is that we continue broadcasting,” Yılmaz said. Prosecutor Anders Riisager said he would have to study the 175-page verdict before deciding whether to appeal.