British Lawyers Encounter Difficulties in Meeting Ocalan

ANKARA (Reuters)-Two British lawyers representing condemned Kurdish rebel Abdullah Ocalan at a European court appeal complained on Friday their first visit to their client was cut short and fraught with difficulties.

“Turkey might have put Ocalan on an inaccessible (prison) island for security reasons. But it should also meet the obligation of providing direct access of lawyers to that island,” lawyer Mark Muller told Reuters on the telephone from Istanbul.

Ocalan was sentenced to death by a Turkish court two years ago for spearheading an armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule that has cost over 30,000 lives since his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas took up arms in 1984.

Turkey–a candidate for EU membership–promised its European allies not to execute him while the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg considers the case. Turkey has not executed anyone since the mid-1980s. There is strong pressure from Turkish right-wingers to hang Ocalan–but the EU sees abolishing capital punishment as a precondition for membership.

Muller said he and another British colleague faced difficulties meeting Ocalan–despite court rulings obliging Turkey to provide facilities and access. He said the boat carrying them to Imrali on Wednesday was in poor condition and had to return to Gemlik port due to bad weather. On Thursday–when they reached the island–they could meet Ocalan for only an hour and 15 minutes–despite being given permission for an all-day visit–he said.

“This is a totally inadequate amount of time not only to introduce ourselves–but…to deal with the case issues.” Muller said gendarmerie officers observing their meeting wanted to take photocopies of the lawyer’s notes. They later dropped the demand after meeting strong resistance.

He said they would apply to Turkish authorities to visit Ocalan in May–hoping for better facilities and access.

Muller did not elaborate on the details of the case–which is widely expected to take at least another year to conclude.

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