Italy Voids Ocalan’s Arrest Warrant

ROME (Reuters)–An Italian court on Friday overruled Turkey’s international arrest warrant for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan but ordered him to remain in Rome because of a German request for his arrest.

Rome’s Court of Appeal decided that Ocalan–the man at the top of Turkey’s most wanted list–could live at a private address but would have to report to police daily. Supporters had been hoping he would not be detained in jail.

"The Court of Appeal has overruled Turkey’s international arrest warrant–and so the prerequisites for an extradition to Turkey–which is a country in which the death penalty is in force…no longer exist," a justice ministry spokesman told Reuters. "If one falls–the other falls with it," he added.

A spokesman for Italy’s Justice Ministry said the ruling meant by extension that there was also no basis for Turkey’s extradition request. Italy’s constitution forbids Italy to hand over a suspect to a country where the death penalty is in force.

Italy’s Justice Minister Olivierto Diliberto said Ocalan’s fate now depended on whether Germany asked for extradition–which it would be required to do within 40 days of Ocalan’s detainment on November 12 or the arrest warrant expires.

"If Germany does not ask for extradition–Ocalan will be a free man in 30 days," Diliberto told reporters.

Germany had said earlier on Friday it would not for the time being seek Ocalan’s extradition on charges of incitement to murder.

"At the present time we do not want to jeopardize or damage the situation," government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye told a news conference. "A request for extradition has been put on hold." Germany is home to some two million Turks–about a quarter of whom are ethnic Kurds.

Ocalan is currently being held under guard at a hospital near Rome and was expected to move to a private address soon. An Interior Ministry commission is examining a request he filed last Saturday for political asylum.

Ocalan’s presence in Germany would be certain to provoke mass demonstrations by Kurd supporters–similar to the gatherings in the past week in Rome.

Around 5,000 Kurds marched through the Italian capital this week to press for Ocalan’s release. Around 500 Kurds have remained at the week-long vigil in a square in central Rome.

In a letter read to the crowd on Friday–Ocalan appealed to his followers to respect law and order and refrain from acts which reflected badly on the Kurdish people.

He said he did not want any more of his supporters to set themselves on fire on his behalf and urged demonstrators in Rome to go back to their homes and to their places of work.

"I have wanted to give a major impetus to the efforts for peace and a political solution (to the Kurdish question)…I salute your support and ask you to continue…in the most careful respect of legality and democratic rules," said the letter–read to a jubilant crowd in Kurdish by a spokesman for Ocalan.

Ocalan earlier this week repudiated terrorism and said he wanted to open peaceful dialogue with Turkey and Europe in order to solve the Kurdish question.

"I absolutely do not want that within our population people continue to protest by setting themselves alight. I invite you to return to your homes and your workplaces–from where you can maintain your commitment to the Kurdish cause," said the letter–also read out in Italian.

"I hope no one will commit any acts that might reflect badly on our people," Ocalan added to applause by the crowd.

Two men died this week after setting themselves on fire in Moscow to press Italy to give Ocalan political asylum. A man also set himself ablaze in Rome and is recovering in a hospital.

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