Violence Mars Turkish Kurd Rally on Sixth Anniversary of Ocalan Capture

Turkish rights group seeks protest violence probe

At least 15 people injured and 20 others detained in Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey after police clash with protesters on the anniversary of a Kurdish rebel leader’s arrest.

ISTANBUL (AFP/Reuters)–A Turkish rights group–on Wednesday–called for a probe into what it called excessive use of force by police in breaking up protests marking the sixth anniversary of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan’s capture.

Riot police sprayed tear gas and wielded batons on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of pro-Ocalan protesters in Istanbul and Diyarbakir–the main city in the largely Kurdish southeast.

Local police said they were investigating the death from apparent gunshot wounds of a 19-year-old man in the southern port city of Mersin–where protesters threw rocks at police. There were also smaller clashes between police and demonstrators in the Aegean city of Izmir and the eastern town of Van.

Ocalan–serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison after special forces captured him in Kenya in 1999–still comman’s support among sections of the Kurdish population.

The Human Rights Association (IHD)–a leading Turkish rights group–called on the Interior Ministry and prosecutors to launch administrative and judicial investigations into those responsible for Tuesday’s violence.

"We in the Human Rights Association condemn this mode of operation which is based on violence–pressure and obstructing the exercise of rights," IHD Chairman Yusuf Alatas said in a statement.

A police spokesman’said police had not yet issued a statement on the allegations of excessive force.

Turkish special forces brought Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Ocalan back to Turkey from Kenya in 1999 after a three-month chase around Europe and Africa.

Before his capture–Ocalan had been searching for a safe haven. Syria threw him out of Damascus under Turkish military pressure in November 1998. He failed to find long-term refuge in Italy–Russia–the Netherlands and other European countries.

He was sentenced to death for high treason on June 29–1999–but the verdict was later commuted to life imprisonment once Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of a European Union-inspired rights reform drive.

The PKK launched a fight for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. More than 30,000 have died in two decades of conflict. Violence dwindled after his capture but revived after the group called off a unilateral ceasefire last June.

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