Ocalan Captured; Kurds in Armenia Protest

ANKARA (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–Turkey finally caught up with Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and brought him home to stand trial on Tuesday after he was spirited out of Africa in mysterious circumstances.

Widespread Kurdish demonstrations in Europe–originally called to protest at Greece’s refusal to grant Ocalan refuge–intensified throughout the day. In Yerevan–Kurdish-Armenia’s demonstrated the UN headquarters.

At around 1 p.m. Tuesday–a large group of Kurds residing in Armenia–broke into the United Nations Yerevan-based Office and–according to some reports–took several officers hostage.

UN representative Katica Cekalovic flatly refused comment on the matter–while other UN officials said the demonstrators had not caused any damage either to people or to the building. A Noyan Tapan reporter–who was an eyewitness to the incident–saw damaged front doors and broken glass.

About 40 young Kurds demanded that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan be freed. The demonstrators were reportedly encouraged by fellow Kurds who had gathered near the building.

Around 35 people rushed into the building and stayed inside for nearly an hour and a half. Throughout the incident the building was being cordoned by interior ministry troops and the fire brigade.

The press was barred from entering the building–however–it became clear from demonstrator accounts that the Kurdish community was accusing the Greek authorities of betraying their Ocalan.

The Kurds have set out to protect the rights of both Ocalan and all their compatriots living in Turkey through the United Nations.

Tomas Birrat–representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees–said after negotiations he was able to convince the demonstrators that in the given situation the UN could do nothing but to present their demand to the UN Geneva Office and the UN Headquarters in New York.

An hour later–the demonstrators left the building and let the so-called hostages go. They went away shouting slogans.

The Kurdistan Office said two Kurdish-Armenia’s–Samant Tariel and Sabri Uzun–attempted to set themselves ablaze. The fire was put out and the two went on protesting.

Leaving the UN Office–the crowd headed for the Interior & National Security Ministry headquarters where they claimed three of their fellow-demonstrators were being kept.

At that juncture a clash between the demonstrators and police ensued–as a result of which several demonstrators were clubbed.

According to some unverified information–the demonstrations in front of the UN Office followed a similar action near the Greek Embassy.

Diplomatic missions–mainly Greek and Kenyan–in about 20 European cities were occupied by protesters and a Kurdish prisoner in Turkey died after setting himself on fire.

Another inmate in the jail in the southeastern regional capital Diyarbakir was severely injured in a similar suicide bid as were protesters in Stuttgart–London and Copenhagen.

In London–about 100 Kurdish demonstrators occupying the Greek embassy said they were prepared to burn themselves to death in support of Ocalan.

The Kurdish demonstrations were directed largely against Greece–which secretly sheltered Ocalan in its Nairobi diplomatic mission before he fell into Turkey’s hands–apparently by some sort of trick.

Ocalan supporters swiftly seized hostages at Greek missions in the Netherlands–Switzerland and Germany.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit–his voice shaking with emotion–announced at a news conference in Ankara: "The head of the separatist organization has been in Turkey since three o’clock this morning."

"He will account for his actions in front of the Turkish justice system," Ecevit said.

He declined to give details of how Ocalan–"Apo" to Turkey’s eight million Kurds–was captured.

Turkey still has capital punishment on its statute books–the reason it failed last year to extradite its most wanted fugitive from Italy. But it has not executed anyone since 1984.

Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos–speaking to reporters in Athens–filled in some details of the secret odyssey of Ocalan–who had been bounced from country to country for months with Ankara applying heavy diplomatic pressure everywhere he sought refuge.

Greece–often at odds with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey–inherited the Ocalan hot potato this month after he was denied refuge by or forced out of Lebanon–Syria–Russia–Italy Germany–the Netherlands and other places.

Turned away at airports around Europe on February 1–his plane refueled on the Greek island of Corfu and flew to Kenya–where Pangalos said Ocalan hid in a Greek embassy building.

Pangalos said Ocalan left the embassy on Monday of his own accord–expecting to fly to the Netherlands. "He chose–despite our advice–to go with the Kenyan authorities to the airport."

But Kenyan Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana said his government played no part in the story and demanded the immediate recall of the Greek ambassador–saying he could no longer be trusted.

He said Greek Ambassador George Costorlas had flown Ocalan and a group of followers into Kenya on a private plane on February 2 without clearing them with Kenyan authorities and gave fictitious names when asked who they were.

Ocalan’s lawyers said he was tricked or forced out of the Greek embassy in Nairobi.

"According to my information–my client was yesterday–based on a misrepresentation of the situation by the Kenyan authorities–effectively dragged out of the Greek embassy," lawyer Eberhard Schultz told German television.

The White House denied that the United States had any "direct involvement" in the hand-over of Ocalan to Turkey but refused to comment further on his capture.

"We’re obviously very pleased with the apprehension of this terrorist leader," spokesman Joe Lockhart said. "We have consistently urged all governmen’s to help bring this person to justice consistent with international law."

Ocalan’s movement–the Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK–vowed that its armed struggle would continue.

"The Kurdish guerrillas and people must mobilize to carry out every kind of action against Turkey and their enemies," the PKK central committee said in a statement read on Med TV–a satellite channel which broadcasts in Kurdish from Belgium.


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