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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 15:57 GMT
Euro court considers Ocalan appeal
Pro-Ocalan demonstrators in Strasbourg
Thousands of Kurds demonstrated in Strasbourg
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has adjourned a case in which Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan is appealing against his death sentence in Turkey.

The three-hour hearing, held amid tight security, closed at 1245 local time (1145 GMT) as the 10 presiding judges retired to consider whether the case should proceed.

Thousands of rival demonstrators took to the streets in Strasbourg with Ocalan's supporters chanting for his freedom while his opponents called for the death penalty to be upheld.

Abdullah Ocalan
Ocalan: No longer calling for armed conflict
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.

He was abducted by Turkish agents in Kenya two years ago and flown to Turkey for a trial at which he was condemned to hang.

Ocalan says he was not given a fair trial.

An intial decision is expected within a week, but a final ruling may take months to reach.

Execution

During the hearing, Ocalan's lawyers said his abduction in Kenya, his trial and the death sentence against him were all violations of his human rights.

Ocalan's legal advisers prepare documents for the hearing in Strasbourg
Ocalan's lawyers say EU law opposes death penalty
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.

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.

From his cell in an offshore island jail, 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.

On Monday, police in eastern Turkey arrested about 100 people who were protesting against the death penalty ahead of Ocalan's appeal.

Those arrested in the town of Van were members of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (Hadep) - Turkey's only legal Kurdish party.

The police said the demonstrators had ignored appeals to disperse.

Support for Ocalan

Anti-Ocalan demonstrators
Ocalan opponents want the death penalty upheld
A BBC correspondent in Istanbul, Chris Morris, says that in eastern Turkey, support for abolition of the death penalty translates into support for Ocalan, so the timing of the demonstration was no accident.

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

But there are still those who want him to be executed. Relatives of soldiers killed by the PKK are expected to attend the court hearing.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Colin Blane
"A highly sensitive case"
The BBC's Chris Morris in Istanbul
"Most Turks don't trust him and he remains a divisive figure"
Kerim Yildiz, Ocalan's legal team member
"He is now proposing peaceful solutions"
News and background on Abdullah Ocalan

Key stories

Background
See also:

18 Aug 00 | Europe
09 Feb 00 | Europe
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