Ocalan to Deliver ‘Last Word’ At Trial

ANKARA (Reuters)–Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan will have one final chance to address a Turkish court when it reconvenes on Tuesday to decide whether to order his hanging on treason charges.

Turkish newspapers on Monday gave only subdued coverage to the imminent end of what has been described here as the "trial of the century."

But the Sabah daily noted that Ocalan would be given an opportunity to deliver his "last word" to the courtroom on the high-security prison island of Imrali when the court meets on Tuesday.

Ocalan has already spoken for hours in his defense and his final statement could be lengthy. It would be followed by a verdict and sentencing.

State prosecutors demand the death penalty for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader–holding him personally responsible for more than 29,000 deaths in the Kurds’ 14 years of armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey.

Ocalan has accepted responsibility for the PKK’s actions but blamed the Turkish state for fueling the movement by outlawing the use of Kurdish in schools or on television.

He has offered to use his influence to negotiate a surrender by the Kurdsf his life is spared. Turkey refuses to deal with a group it considers "terrorist."

Both Ocalan and his guerrillas at large in the mountains of the southeast have warned of increased violence if the PKK leader’s offer is spurned.

Justice ministry officials told Reuters they had ordered tightened security in prisons occupied by thousands of captured PKK members–many of whom staged hunger strikes when Ocalan was first captured in February.

Police in the capital Ankara also said extra precautions were in place ahead of the verdict.

Ocalan himself has warned of "thousands" of potential suicide bombers ready to blow themselves up in his name.

His defense lawyers have urged the panel of three judges to invoke a legal article allowing them to favor life imprisonment for good behavior since his capture in Kenya.

Any death penalty would have to be upheld by the court of appeals and then ratified by parliament.

Ocalan’s lawyers said after visiting their client on Imrali island that they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg–regardless of the verdict.

"We have objections to the way he was brought here…If it does happen–we object to the death penalty. We will apply to the European Court of Human Rights in tandem with the verdict," said lawyer Mahmut Seker–according to Anatolian news agency.

Turkey keeps the death penalty on its books but has not carried out an execution since 1984.

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