IMRALI ISLAND–Turkey (Reuters)–Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan–at the opening of his treason trial on Monday–said Russia–Germany–Italy–Syria and Greece had all shown tolerance towards his rebel group to varying degrees.
"Just like Greece–in a similar way–Russia–Italy and Germany did not impede the PKK’s (The Kurdistan Workers Party) activities," Ocalan told a court on the Turkish prison island where he is held.
Turkish authorities have long complained that Ocalan’s PKK group received foreign support–particularly from Greece and Syria.
Turkey’s stern warnings of confrontation late last year forced Syria to expel the rebel leader from a luxury apartment in Damascus–from where he is believed to have spearheaded the PKK’s 14-year armed campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey.
"Syria never officially recognized the PKK–but they allowed our activities," he said. Turkey has also asked Syria to shut down the PKK camps in the Bekaa Valley.
Already tense ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey further soured in February when it emerged that Athens had harbored Ocalan at its embassy in Kenya.
Ocalan was later handed over to Turkish special forces and brought to the remote island jail where his trial is being held. Involvement of Greek officials in Ocalan’s hiding has rocked the Greek government and led to a number of resignations.
Ocalan told the court that Greece had tricked him and played a part in turning him over to Turkish special forces in Kenya.
"Greece provided us with financial support in various ways. Greek generals visited us in Bekaa (in Lebanon) but the same generals helped in my capture."
Ocalan did not specify how Russia–Italy and Germany had helped him. But he spent some time in Russia after leaving Syria. Italy had refused to extradite him to Turkey and Germany declined to act on an arrest warrant earlier issued for him.
Ocalan was quoted on Tuesday as telling a Turkish court he bore full responsibility for 14 years of guerrilla warfare that could see him hanged for treason.
Turkey’s Anatolian news agency quoted Ocalan as telling the court on the prison island of Imrali he had dominated the PKK until Turkey captured him in February.
"Primary responsibility for the organization is mine. Rather–it was until the moment I was arrested…Responsibility for the organization’s actions and activities is in the first degree mine," he was quoted as saying.
Anatolian and the state TRT television network are the only media allowed unrestricted access to the trial. A limited number of other Turkish and foreign media present are not allowed to report the day’s proceedings until the end of each session.
Turkey has refused to allow official foreign observers but western diplomats and members of parliament have been attending in an unofficial capacity.
Three members of his defense team said on the second day of the trial they had pulled out of the hearings because the state had ridden roughshod over normal procedure.
They have said a "crisis management center" set up on the island under the prime minister’s office was not allowing them unrestricted access to their client and they were not allowed to be alone with him when meetings took place.
Masked men attended their meetings with Ocalan to prepare his defense–they said.
The lawyers said that under the Turkish penal code they should have unrestricted access to their client.
The trial is being held amid extraordinary security on the island in the Sea of Marmara. The lawyers say the treatment of Ocalan violates Turkey’s laws on court procedure.
They deny any rift with their client over defense strategy.
Ocalan–who seems outspoken and keen to have his say–appears to have seized the opportunity of media coverage of his trial to try and negotiate publicly with the Turkish authorities who have in the past repeatedly refused to negotiate with the PKK.
He was quoted as telling the court that an offer he made on Monday–the first day of the trial–to secure a PKK surrender in return for his life came from a genuine desire for peace and not fear of the gallows. "This was not out of fear," he said.
Ocalan told a Turkish court on Tuesday his ex-wife may have been behind the 1986 killing of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.
Judge Turgut Okyay–one of a panel of three judges trying Ocalan on treason charges–pressed the rebel leader on reports that the PKK was behind the killing–which shocked the Nordic nation.
A lone gunman’shot Palme dead at point-blank range while he was walking home with his wife.
Ocalan denied giving any orders to kill Palme after Sweden refused asylum to former PKK members.
"This is a conspiracy that has been placed on my shoulders," Anatolian news agency quoted him as telling the court from a bullet-proof glass box.
But he said he had heard that a Kurdish splinter group was responsible.
"I have received information that PKK Rejin killed Palme," Ocalan said–adding that his former wife and her new husband were behind the rival group–mainly based in Europe.
"Kesire Yildirim and Huseyin Yildirim founded this organization and wanted to develop it," he said.
Ocalan’s ex-wife Kesire lived in Sweden for several years in the early 1980s–but never succeeded in getting a visa for him–and he never went to Sweden.