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Friday, 15 December, 2000, 11:30 GMT
Ocalan wins death penalty hearing
Ocalan during his Turkish trial
Ocalan is held in a special prison in Turkey
Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has won the first stage of a legal battle to escape the death penalty.

The European Court of Human Rights has granted him leave to appeal against the sentence, imposed by a Turkish court earlier this year.

Correspondents say a final ruling by the 17 European judges could take months.

Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is widely held responsible in Turkey for the killings of more than 30,000 people during 16 years of armed conflict.

Pro-Ocalan demonstration in Strasbourg
Ocalan supporters have urged European judges to revoke death penalty
He took his case to the European court after claiming that Turkey had violated the European Convention of Human Rights.

During an initial hearing at the Strasbourg court in November, Ocalan's lawyers said his detention in Kenya by Turkish agents, his subsequent trial and the death sentence against him were all violations of his rights.

But lawyers for the Turkish Government argued that Ocalan's trial had taken place in a fair way.

They said he had been given full access to legal representation, that he had not been mistreated and that his human rights had been respected.

Scrutiny

Turkey has promised it will not proceed with the judicial process leading to possible execution until the European Court has issued a ruling.

Turkey's human rights record has been under scrutiny as it seeks membership of the European Union. One of the conditions for joining the EU is the abolition of the death penalty.

Many leading Turkish politicians now believe hanging Ocalan would be deeply counter-productive.

The PKK leader has urged his supporters to give up armed conflict and has abandoned calls for self-rule for Turkey's 12 million Kurds.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Chazan
"Since his arrest Mr Ocalan has been kept in solitary confinement on a prison island"
The BBC's Chris Morris in Istanbul
"Many people now think killing Mr Ocalan would be counter-productive"
News and background on Abdullah Ocalan

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18 Aug 00 | Europe
09 Feb 00 | Europe
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