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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 23:31 GMT
Patchy response to Kurd protest call
Nicosia, Cyprus
Kurdish children lead a demonstration in Cyprus
There has been a patchy response to a call for large-scale protests by the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to reports from Turkey.


In the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country, police wrenched open the doors of dozens of shops on Thursday, forcing an end to a strike that marked the second anniversary rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan's capture.

Most shopkeepers ignored the strike, while Kurds staged small protests in Diyarbakir, and in the cities of Van, Mardin and Adana.

But hundreds of Kurds took part in demonstrations across Europe.

Police

The Kurdish rebel organisation had urged its supporters to mark the anniversary with mass demonstrations and strikes to press the Turkish government into granting Kurdish rights.

Nicosia, Cyprus
Members of the Kurdish community living in Cyprus
Turkish police boosted security and canceled all leave for officers in Istanbul in anticipation of demonstrations.

Armoured vehicles patrolled the streets in the city of Diyarbakir, in the south-east of the country.

Ocalan was seized by Turkish commandos in Kenya and is being held in an island prison near Istanbul, under a death sentence for treason.

Children on trial

Thirteen children and youths aged between nine and 17 appeared in court in Diyarbakir on Thursday, charged with aiding and abetting the PKK.

Stockholm, Sweden
Hundreds of Kurds demonstrated in Sweden
The Turkish authorities say the 13 shouted pro-PKK slogans during a rally in January in the town of Viransehir, south-west of Diyarbakir.

The youths' first court hearing was held behind closed doors because all the accused were under 18. They walked into the courtroom with their parents and lawyers.

Six had been held in detention, seven freed pending trial. The court ordered the release of the six youths from custody, pending a verdict. The next hearing will be in April.

No talks with rebels

The PKK says it has abandoned violence and it wants to become a political party, but the Turkish authorities flatly reject any contact with the rebel group or its supporters.

The PKK called on Kurds everywhere to take part in the day of protest.

Ocalan was sentenced to death for his role in a 16-year campaign for Kurdish independence that has cost more than 30,000 lives. After the sentence, Ocalan called a ceasefire and reduced his demands to a call for Kurdish cultural rights.

PKK rebels
PKK rebels: Fighting has subsided in southeast Turkey
Apart from Ocalan himself, the PKK leadership is now based in isolated camps on the mountainous border between Iran and Iraq.

Unauthorised protests are quickly suppressed in Turkey and any public display of support for the PKK is likely to be dealt with severely.

The PKK says it is concerned about Ocalan's state of health and it is angry that Turkey refuses to consider what it calls its plan for peace.

The Turkish army has ignored the rebel ceasefire and sworn to hunt down rebel fighters wherever they can be found.

The PKK's current tactics are to follow Ocalan's lead in pressing for moderate concessions to Turkey's Kurdish community.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Istanbul says the main problem the authorities face is that two years after Ocalan's capture they have done nothing to fulfil their promise of improving economic conditions in the south-east of the country.

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See also:

26 Jan 01 | Europe
Ocalan warns of fresh attacks
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Turkey defends anti-rebel raid
15 Dec 00 | Europe
Ocalan wins death penalty hearing
09 Feb 00 | Europe
PKK ends war with Turkey
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