Ocalan Execution Appeal Rejected

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s top prosecutor on Thursday rejected a last-ditch appeal by Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan against his death sentence–opening the way for an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ocalan was condemned to death in June for treason and leading a 15-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in which some 30,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed.

His appeal for a "correction" to the sentence–a seldom- granted last stage appeal–was rejected by Appeal Court Chief Prosecutor Vural Savas. "No deficienies or omissions affecting the main ruling were determined in the local court’s verdict," Savas said in a decision addressed to the court which convicted the Kurdish freedom-fighter.

The ECHR has asked Ankara to delay the execution while it considers Ocalan’s plea that the sentence breaches European law–in a process that could take some 18 months.

Turkish leaders did not respond to the call–saying the domestic legal process was still continuing. Now the chief prosecutor’s ruling effectively puts the ball in their court. They have to decide whether to abide by the Strasbourg-based court’s ruling or send Ocalan’s verdict to the Turkish parliament–where deputies must vote on whether to hang the Kurdish leader.

There is no time limit for this to take place and more than 35 death sentences have been held up in the ministry in cases dating back to 1991. No one has been officially executed in Turkey since 1984. Ocalan’s fate is a potential stumbling block to Turkey’s ambition to join the European Union–which has urged Ankara not to hang Ocalan and to grant its 12 million Kurds cultural rights.

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