Ocalan to Stress Cease Fire Call in Defense

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan said on Thursday a cease-fire call he made last year would form the basis of his defense when he is tried in a Turkish court on treason charges.

"The position which we have developed since the 1993 cease-fire was last reiterated in the cease-fire on September 1–1998…I will make my defense in court along these lines," Ocalan said in a written statement faxed to Reuters by his defense team.

It was the first statement by Ocalan–51–since he was seized last month by Turkish special forces in Kenya.

He faces a possible death sentence on treason charges for orchestrating a 14-year-old armed fight by Kurdish rebels for self-rule in southeast Turkey. More than 29,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

His Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) declared unilateral cease-fires in 1993–1995 and 1998 and has made a series of other calls for a halt to hostilities. Ankara has dismissed them as tactical maneuvers–sometimes called before the winter when operations are difficult in any case.

Ocalan said the reasons for calling the cease-fires in the first place were still viable.

Ankara had always refused to treat with Ocalan whom it regards as a terrorist or common criminal.

He is the sole inmate of an island prison in the Marmara Sea–south of Istanbul. Turkish courts are already hearing several cases against Ocalan–which are set to be combined in one trial and transferred to the island. It was not clear when the trial would begin.

The Kurdish leader–also known as Apo–said the PKK was committed to "a democratic–peaceful political compromise."

"Our most sincere wish is for a solution–made possible by peace and real democracy on the basis of Turkey’s unity and independence–in which the conditions are created for our peoples to live freely and in peace," he said.

The statement was at variance with those made by the PKK–which has said it will step up the armed conflict.

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