Europe Socialists Urge Fair Trial for Ocalan

MILAN–STRASBOURG–ISTANBUL–ANKARA (Reuters)–European socialist parties called on Tuesday for a fair trial for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and demanded that his human rights be respected–meanwhile in an interview Ocalan’s lawyers said that perhaps the Kurdish conflict should be tried–with Turkey’s role in suppressing it addressed in court.

In a motion put forward by the Italian Democrats of the Left (DS) and Greece’s socialist party PASOK–the umbrella Party of European Socialists called for an end to "repressive Turkish military action in the Kurdish region."

The motion also demanded an end to "terrorist actions on Turkish territory or against Turkish people or properties."

Ocalan is being held on a prison island in the Sea of Marmara–awaiting trial for treason–a charge that could lead to his execution.

The PES–whose member parties are in power in 13 of the 15 European Union states–was holding a congress in Milan to launch its campaign for the European Parliament elections in June. The PES is the biggest grouping in the Parliament.

The motion adopted by the congress said Ocalan should have access to his lawyers and that international observers should be allowed to attend his trial.

It acknowledged Turkey’s rights "to defend its own citizens’ security and territorial integrity as well as the obligation to respect the rights of the Kurdish people to manifest their own culture–their own traditions and their own identity."

Turkey’s Anatolian news agency said on Tuesday Turkish police have arrested 19 people they believe carried out a wave of Istanbul fire bomb attacks in protest at Ocalan’s capture.

Ocalan’s supporters have staged sporadic violent protests across the mainly-Kurdish southeast and in Kurdish quarters of major cities since Turkey arrested Ocalan on February 15.

The appeal was made in Italy where Ocalan was arrested in November and where he sought political asylum. He left Rome in January a free man and was reported to have traveled to Russia and other destinations before being seized in Kenya by Turkish agents. The PES urged Turkey to "honor its commitmen’s in the Council of Europe and abolish the death penalty in this and every other case."

These requiremen’s–said the PES–are "all essential conditions in order to open a way to peace–in the interest of all citizens of Turkey and of the relationship between Turkey and the European Union."

Lawyers for Ocalan intend to turn his trial into an inquiry into Turkey’s 14-year-old fight against the rebels.

Since successfully seizing its most wanted man–Turkey has come under international pressure to ensure Ocalan gets a fair trial–a right his defense team says has already been violated.

"This case should be turned into one where the war is judged and that is what we are going to do," Ocalan lawyer Eren Keskin told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"Ocalan did not kill 30,000 people–nor give the order for them to be killed. There is a war and it is the war that needs to be judged," said Keskin in her dowdy downtown Ankara office.

Turkey accuses the PKK of conducting a bloody "terrorist" campaign financed by extortion and drug smuggling.

Rights activists say Turkey’s armed forces have carried out a "dirty war" against the PKK–burning and emptying villages to deprive the organization of logistic support–a charge Ankara denies.

"War itself is a violation of human rights. Ocalan has violated human rights in this war. But the Turkish state has done so even more," said Keskin.

Another of Ocalan’s lawyers accused Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on Monday of obstructing a fair trial by failing to provide security for the defense team.

Two of the lawyers who traveled to the prison island last week to see their client for the first time–10 days after his arrest–were met by angry protests.

They said the meeting was curtailed after 20 minutes and held in the presence of a public prosecutor and two masked men.

"One of the masked men’stood behind Ocalan looking at the lawyers and another stood behind them staring at Ocalan," said Keskin. "This is unacceptable intimidation."

Keskin–a glamorous 40-year-old with long dark hair and bright red lipstick–said she had received death threats.

"As soon as I say anything–I am held up as a target by the press," she said. "It is not safe for us."

Keskin said the constant reference to Ocalan in Turkish media as "the head terrorist," or "the killer of 30,000" prejudiced the trial and was against Turkish law.

She said television footage of the Kurdish leader paraded in front of cameras blindfolded and flanked by masked men’showed Ocalan had been tortured.

"He has been given drugs against his will and is constantly blindfolded…Torture isn’t just electric shocks and beatings."

Meanwhile–the European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday Turkey had advised it that lawyers for Ocalan could visit him on the prison island where he is detained.

A statement from the Court said Ankara had confirmed that all necessary security measures had been taken so the lawyers could carry out their work normally.

The court said lawyers for Ocalan had complained they were unable to carry out their job normally by Turkish authorities.

The European Court said Ankara had given assurances Ocalan was being given a daily health check-up by both a general practitioner and by a heart specialist.

The court last month wrote to Turkey asking for explanations about the arrest and whether Ocalan had legal representation.

It said that lawyers for Ocalan complained they had met him for only 20 minutes on February 26 instead of three hours as scheduled and that two masked security officers were present throughout.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry has ordered a legal clampdown on media coverage deemed to be in support of Ocalan–the state-un Anatolian news agency said on Tuesday.

It said Justice Minister Selcuk Oztek had sent a directive to regional prosecutors demanding strict application of laws against separatism.

"Legal measures should be taken against those conducting political or cultural separatism–though active outside the PKK–who publish messages–press statemen’s or images…which constitute a crime," the agency quoted the directive as saying.


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