Ocalan Lawyers Appeal Death Sentence at Europe Court

ANKARA (Reuters)–Lawyers for Abdullah Ocalan said Wednesday they would seek an injunction at the European Court of Human Rights to forestall any move by Turkey to implement the death sentence passed on the Kurdish leader.

In the big cities of Western Turkey–including Istanbul–as well as in the mainly Kurdish southeast there were no real signs of any violent reaction the death sentence imposed for Ocalan’s role in a 14-year-old campaign that has cost 29,000 lives.

In the media–popular delight was unmistakable.

"Today is our holiday," said a headline in Sabah newspaper below a photograph showing relatives of soldiers killed fighting Kurds rejoicing at the verdict. A hangman’s noose hung down the page alongside a picture of Ocalan.

Foreign governmen’s and international organisations urged Turkey not to execute Ocalan. Current European Union president Germany said such a move could add to difficulties in Ankara’s longstanding bid to join the 15-member bloc.

Ocalan’s lawyers took formal moves to prevent any implementation of the sentence.

The European Court normally asks applicants first to exhaust appeal procedures in their home country before applying to it. But lawyers said their application would argue that the damage to Ocalan could be irreversible if they awaited completion of the domestic process.

"If there is the possibility of irreparable damage to the client–you have the right to apply to the European Court of Human Rights without waiting for an appeals court verdict," lawyer Kemal Bilgic told a news conference.

He said they would apply to the Strasbourg-based court within the next few days arguing Turkish authorities violated normal legal procedure at every step of the Ocalan case–from his dramatic capture in Kenya to his detention on an isolated jail island.

The PKK also launched a rocket attack overnight on state buildings in a small regional town–but missed the targets. No casualties were reported.

In Germany where some two million Turkish citizens–many of ethnic Kurdish origin–live several Turkish restauran’s and travel agencies were firebombed in an apparent response to the verdict. One person was injured in the attacks.

Hundreds of Kurdish protesters took to the streets in cities across Europe on Tuesday on hearing of the death sentence–including London–Moscow–Paris–Bonn–Athens and Strasbourg. Some 100 Kurdish people held a peaceful demonstration in Australia on Wednesday–demanding Ocalan’s release.

In the southeast–some 1,000 young soldiers in civilian clothes marched through the regional capital Diyarbakir–chanting "Damn the PKK." Residents watched silently.

The sentence for Ocalan automatically goes through an appeals process–followed by parliamentary ratification–that could last years. The Turkish Appeals Court is expected to began considering the case in a few weeks but its ruling is not due before a summer break ends for in early September.


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