Reminiscent of operations carried out in Turkey, Belgian police yesterday raided ROJ-TV offices in Denderleeuw, smashing computers and broadcasting equipment. Balaclava-hooded agents handcuffed ROJ-TV staff and removed them from the premises. Those arrested include head of ROJ-TV Gülşen Emsiz, and journalists Burhan Erdem, Devrim Akçadağ and Murat Yaklav. The rest of station’s staff gathered outside of the building to protest the degrading raid. Some reports say several of the balaclava-clad police that took part in the raid were Turkish-speaking.
ROJ-TV, an international Kurdish satellite station, began operations in 2004 and broadcasts with a licence from Denmark.
The international satellite station’s management said that they were informed that the raid was carried out in the framework of anti-terror operations, which have swept through Italy and France in recent weeks. There are two primary allegations directed against the station. One is financial fraud and tax evasion while the other is distributing PKK propaganda, educating PKK members, and recruiting members for the PKK.
An AFP correspondent in Diyarbakir, largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey where ROJ-TV is widely watched, said that the channel’s broadcast was cut on Thursday. ROJ-TV has now begun broadcasting from Sweden.
Amid Dicle, a ROJ-TV journalist, claimed that this raid was carried out at the behest of the Turkish government. Turkey has long sought to silence ROJ-TV in Europe, using diplomatic pressure to force European governments to stop its broadcasting. This operation was, in fact, launched in coordination with Turkish intelligence.
Last month ROJ-TV won its court case today against the German government, which had tried to close down the channel after a request from the Turkish government. Germany and Denmark have had strained relations with Turkey in recent years over ROJ-TV.
Belgian public radio RTBF said some 300 officers took part in raids in Denderleeuw, Brussels, Antwerp and other Belgian cities, raiding 24 Kurdish community centres and arresting a number of prominent Kurdish politicians including Dr. Remzi Kartal, Zobeyer Aydar, Adem Ozun and Ayub Doru.
In a statement carried by Firat News Agency ‘all Kurds living in Europe’ were urged to ‘come together in Brussels and mount actions of protest against this hostile attack.’
Belgian police swoop on high-profile Kurds, AFP, 04 March 2010.
ROJ-TV raided, Remzi Kartal and colleagues arrested. Rojhelat, 04 March 2010.