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Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT

World: Africa

Turkey snatches Kurdish leader

A wave of Kurdish protests has erupted across Europe

Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan has been captured and brought to Turkey for trial.

Jon Leyne: "The situation is extremely tense"
The arrest comes as Mr Ocalan's supporters stormed Greek embassies across Europe.

News of the capture of Turkey's most wanted man was made by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris: "Turkey says it is now fulfilling the promise it made to bring Mr Ocalan to justice"
His statement followed reports that Mr Ocalan had been held by the authorities in Kenya after sheltering at the Greek embassy there.

Mr Ecevit said the capture came about after a 12-day undercover operation.

His voice shaking with emotion, the prime minister told a news conference in Ankara that Mr Ocalan arrived in the country unhurt at 0100GMT but had not yet reached his final destination.

"He will account for his actions in front of the Turkish justice system," Mr Ecevit said. The former fugitive leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, now faces trial on charges of murder and treason and a possible death sentence.

Dramatic protests

Mr Ocalan's Kurdish supporters staged a string of dramatic protests at Greek embassies across Europe. A number of Greek diplomats were taken hostage.

[ image: A protester set himself ablaze in Athens]
A protester set himself ablaze in Athens
In Vienna, the Greek ambassador and his family were held captive as PKK supporters stormed both the Greek and Kenyan embassies.

In the Netherlands protesters occupied the Greek ambassador's residence in The Hague taking his wife and child hostage.

Supporters of Mr Ocalan have barricaded themselves in the Greek Embassy in London saying they are ready to burn themselves. Others have broken into the United Nations Europe headquarters in Geneva.

There are also protests in Moscow, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Marseille and several German cities.

Police in France say seven Kurdish activists have occupied the Kenyan embassy in Paris.

Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos has threatened to take action at home and abroad against Kurdish activists unless all hostages being held in Greek embassies around Europe are freed immediately.

Mr Pangalos again strongly denied that Greece had been complicit in Mr Ocalan's capture, and warned of a merciless response unless the PKK ordered its members to withdraw from Greek buildings.

Arrest accounts vary

Differing with the Greek version of events, the Kenyan government has denied responsibility for sending the PKK leader to Turkey, saying it had ordered Greek authorities to fly him out of the country.

Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana said Kenya was "not aware" of where Mr Ocalan was being flown to and would not have agreed to extradite him to Turkey.

[ image: Abdullah Ocalan: Not wanted in Greece]
Abdullah Ocalan: Not wanted in Greece
A spokeswoman for the political wing of the PKK said Kenyan police promised to escort Mr Ocalan from Greek embassy buildings in Nairobi out of the country but his Kurdish colleagues were not allowed to accompany him in the police car.

European spokeswoman Mizgin Sen told BBC Correspondent Pam O'Toole Kurds were shocked that Mr Ocalan had been handed over to Turkey, where, she alleged, he would not receive a fair trial and his life could be in danger.

Mr Ocalan's appearance in Kenya followed a month-long mystery surrounding his whereabouts and came after repeated requests for political asylum in Europe had been rejected.

Death penalty

Mr Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been fighting for 14 years for autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

Paul Wood: "The Greek government is now having to deal with the Kurds, who feel betrayed"
Ankara blames him for around 30,000 deaths and has vowed to pursue him wherever he goes in order to bring him to justice.

The fugitive originally pitched up in Italy in November on a flight from Moscow. Rome refused to extradite him to Turkey on the grounds he could face the death penalty there. The rebel leader left Italy on 16 January after failing to gain immediate asylum.

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