Ocalan Sees Lawyers After 10 Days in Jail

ANKARA (Reuters)–Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was allowed access to his lawyers on Thursday for the first time since Turkish special forces spirited him away from Kenya 10 days ago.

State-run Anatolian news agency said two of the team of 15 defense lawyers traveled to the prison island where Ocalan–facing the death penalty on a treason charge–is being held.

No one has been executed in Turkey since 1984–although capital punishment remains on the statute books.

On returning to the mainland the lawyers–Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu and Hatice Korkut–were greeted by a crowd of angry protesters who jostled with police and chanted anti-Kurdish slogans as the lawyers were driven away under police protection.

European countries–rocked by anti-Turkish demonstrations by Kurdish supporters of Ocalan–are watching the case closely and have called for the guerrilla leader to receive a fair trial.

Turkey has assured its Western allies that its courts are independent and rebuffed European Union calls for international observers to be allowed at the hearings–expected to take place on the Imrali prison island.

A team of German defense lawyers were turned back at Istanbul airport last week when they arrived to represent Ocalan.

For Turkey the capture of Ocalan in a dramatic sting operation in Nairobi has been the greatest victory in its 14-year-old war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is fighting for Kurdish self-rule.

Since the arrest–Ankara has clamped down on Kurdish dissent and enforced a regime of tight security in the mainly Kurdish southeast against any demonstrations in support of Ocalan.

A governor whose province includes Imrali island issued a warning to Ocalan’s lawyers not to overstep the boundaries of their legal brief.

"The lawyers should not abandon their legal role and take on another," Anatolian quoted Bursa governor Orhan Tasanlar as saying.

His statement appeared to be a warning to the defense team–many of whom are human rights activists–not to use their position to advocate Kurdish rights or criticize Turkey’s policy toward Kurdish nationalism.

Meanwhile–Turkey’s attorney general asked the constitutional court Thursday to bar the main legal Kurdish party from April elections that may be overshadowed by Ocalan’s prosecution.

The call from Vural Savas came amid reports that Ocalan had linked the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) to the PKK.

"I submit to your consideration that HADEP should be prevented from taking part in the elections to be held on April 18," Savas said in a petition to the court.

"We are receiving serious information that PKK militants have begun threatening our citizens in the southeast–saying ‘If you do not vote for HADEP–we will burn your villages down and kill all of you’."

Acting HADEP chairman Osman Ozcelik said he expected the court to reject the appeal as there was no concrete evidence. He said the prosecutor’s move was a part of a wider crackdown on Kurdish dissent.

HADEP–already under investigation for ties to the PKK–faces an outright ban in a constitutional court case that is not likely to finish before the elections.

The mass circulation daily Sabah quoted Ocalan–spirited out of Kenya on February 15 and now under interrogation in Turkey–as acknowledging the charges of links between the Kurdish political party and his rebels were true.

HADEP–which advocates a negotiated solution to Turkey’s Kurdish conflict–denies the allegations.

An influential Turkish body issued support for Ankara’s diplomatic campaign to shame Greece for helping the PKK leader–who had hid in the Greek embassy in Nairobi before being captured by Turkish special forces.

"It is essential that no country or people give support to an organization that through its actions leaves no doubt that it is a bloody terrorist organization," said a statement by the military-dominated National Security Council.

The Human Rights Association said police had rounded up more than 3,000 people–apparently to prevent pro-Ocalan protests. In the last elections in 1995–HADEP failed to send any deputies to parliament despite doing well in the mainly Kurdish southeast. It garnered less than 10 percent of votes nationally–failing to pass an electoral barrier used to prevent small parties from being represented.

Police in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast on Thursday detained a Spanish senator who had met local human rights activists amid a security crackdown after Ocalan’s arrest.

Security officials said Senator Angel Colom–also an independent member of parliament in the Catalonian regional parliament–was detained in the main southeastern city of Diyarbakir where he had met rights campaigners since arriving on Wednesday.

"He came without giving any notice," a security official said. "He will be sent away this evening." Police intended to put Colom on a flight to Istanbul–in Turkey’s far west–he said.

Diyarbakir’s emergency rule governor issued an edict last week banning foreign journalists from the turbulent region. "They come to make provocations," he told local reporters on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Spanish Embassy in Ankara said Colom had been asked to accompany police to their headquarters–but was not under arrest.

"He is with the police chief and is deciding whether he should continue with his activities or whether it would be more suitable for him to leave," the spokesman’said.


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