Kurds Occupy More Centers, Threaten To Set Themselves Ablaze
BERLIN (AP) _ Kurdish men, women and children seized Kurdish cultural centers across western Germany on Tuesday and many threatened to set themselves ablaze if police try to evict them.
In Hamburg and Nuremburg, a total of 50 people were arrested as police broke up demonstrations.
Nearly 1,000 Kurds occupied 13 centers that the government tried to close down after banning more than 30 groups Friday believed to be closely associated with the Kurdish Worker’s Party, or PKK. The groups had used the centers for meetings.
The PKK is fighting Turkey for autonomy in the country’s southeast, and German officials say about 5,000 of Germany’s 400,000 Kurds are suspected members.
Cengiz Dereli, the former spokesman for one of the banned groups, warned Tuesday that a violent backlash may be brewing in response to Germany’s ban. Attorneys for the Kurdish groups said they planned to file suit with Germany’s highest court.
The banned groups are suspected of orchestrating attacks on Turkish embassies and businesses across Europe on June 24 and Nov. 4 that claimed two lives. Authorities say some militant Kurds have also been extorting ″revolution taxes″ from compatriots in Germany.
On Tuesday, two alleged PKK members were charged by a Berlin court with trying to extort $12,000 from a Kurdish travel agency owner.
About 300 Kurds were removed peacefully Tuesday from a Frankfurt cultural center, ending an occupation that began Sunday.
In Nuremburg, 25 militants were arrested when they peacefully ended a 14- hour occupation.
But new occupations began Tuesday and during the night in Rendsburg, Bremen, Duisburg, Hagen, Stuttgart, Freiburg, Ulm, Ingolstadt and Hamburg and some 150 people were held a Mannheim center for a third day.
In Hamburg, police arrested 25 people after Kurds forced their way into a cultural center and threatened to set it ablaze. ZDF television showed a crowd of Kurdish demonstrators outside the center jeering as police threw a man to the ground and handcuffed him.
No injuries were reported.
A strong smell of gas surrounded the Mesopotamia Cultural Association building in the northern city of Bremen on Tuesday. As with most of the other occupations, the roughly 50 people who stormed inside Monday night threatened to set it ablaze.
Some 10,000 people have been killed in the Kurdish uprising in Turkey.