Ocalan Trial Verdict Set for Tuesday

IMRALI ISLAND–Turkey (Reuters)–With a wave and a smile to relatives–Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan completed his defense against treason charges on Thursday and the court adjourned for a probable verdict on Tuesday.

A death sentence seems all but inevitable for Ocalan–who blamed the Turkish state for 14 years of violence but declared his guilt in thousands of deaths.

His lawyers urged judges to invoke a legal article empowering them to favor life imprisonment in recognition of good behavior since capture.

Two women–mothers of soldiers killed in the 14-year-old conflict–fainted and were taken out of the courtroom on stretchers.

Others stood and screamed towards Ocalan in his glass box: "Execute Apo!" and "Festival for the Martyrs!"

Leaving the courtroom on Imrali Island–Ocalan–whose nom de guerre is Apo–hesitated for a moment–waved and smiled at his relatives–his first real acknowledgment of them since the trial started on May 31.

"For a final assessment of the overall case and files–we adjourn the trial to Tuesday–June 29 at 10 o’clock," the senior of three judges announced at the end of the day’s proceedings.

Barring unforeseen developmen’s–lawyers now expect a verdict from the State Security Court at that sitting.

That verdict could have profound national and international repercussions for Turkey.

Ocalan says his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will mount a broad campaign of violence if he is executed and his offer to negotiate a settlement is rejected. Protests by Kurdish groups–like those that followed Ocalan’s capture in Kenya in February–might also be expected in Europe.

The United States warned its citizens on Wednesday of possible violent reactions after announcement of the verdict.

The trial itself has been the focus of high emotion–with media dwelling long over images of Ocalan–long public enemy number one–testifying in his glass box.

If a death sentence is passed–Ocalan may appeal.

If that appeal is rejected–his fate is in the hands of parliament which has to approve an execution. In a country dominated since April polls by nationalists–the outcome would seem inevitable.

A greater test of Turkey’s political leaders would then follow. Recent local polls showed deep-seated discontent in the mainly Kurdish southeast–with a group known to be sympathetic to the PKK taking power in several cities.

Ocalan’s only recourse after the parliamentary vote would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

That appeal–challenging the fairness of the trial or the conditions of his capture and pre-trial detention–could take a minimum of six months and possibly more than a year.

Anatolian news agency quoted Ocalan lawyer Mukrime Tepe as saying the court trying Ocalan was a political body and violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Council of Europe said this week it considered the trial had been conducted in a fair manner.

Ocalan said on Wednesday Turkey could end separatist violence by granting Kurds cultural rights but denied he was bargaining for his life in offering to negotiate a peace.

"Whatever damage I have done then let me be of that much use," Ocalan told the court in the Imrali prison island. "The issue is not saving me. There are things I have to do."


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