Turks Charge Kurd With Inciting Hatred

Associated Press
Saturday, February 24, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 23 -- A politician was charged Friday with inciting hatred and threatening public safety after suggesting that fellow Kurds would rise against the state and fight if Turkey ever attacked their Kurdish brethren in neighboring Iraq.

Police detained Hilmi Aydogdu, leader of the Democratic Society Party's branch in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, as he left a conference and questioned him over the remarks, said Nazmi Gur, a party spokesman.

Prosecutors later formally arrested Aydogdu and charged him with threatening public safety by inciting racial enmity and hatred. The charge carries a maximum three-year prison sentence.

In remarks published in several newspapers, Aydogdu had warned Turkey against taking action in the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Turkey, which has been trying to quell a domestic Kurdish insurgency for more than two decades, fears that Iraqi Kurdish groups could seize control of the northern city and incorporate it into their semiautonomous region.

Some in Turkey have suggested that Ankara could take military action to prevent that from happening.

"The two sides in this war would be Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq. There are some 20 million Kurds in Turkey, and the 20 million Kurds would regard such a war as an attack against them," newspapers quoted Aydogdu as saying.

"Any attack on Kirkuk would be considered an attack on Diyarbakir," the politician was also quoted as saying.

Turkish leaders are concerned that Iraq's Kurds want Kirkuk's oil revenue to fund a bid for independence that could encourage separatist Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey who have been fighting for autonomy since 1984. The conflict has killed 37,000 people.

Turkey has not ruled out military incursions into Iraq to hunt separatist Kurds, despite warnings from the United States, which fears that such moves could lead to tensions with the Iraqi Kurdish groups allied with Washington.

Turkish authorities frequently accuse the Democratic Society Party of having links to an outlawed Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which the United States and European Union consider a terrorist group.

Party members frequently are detained and branch offices raided.

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