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Thursday, September 3, 1998 Published at 00:40 GMT 01:40 UK

World: Europe

Kurdish leader goes to trial

Kurdish forces have fought throughout the summer

Chris Morris reports from Ankara.

A former senior commander of the Kurdish rebel movement in Turkey, the PKK, is due to appear in court on Thursday in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.

Semdin Sakik is charged with responsibility for the deaths of more than 200 people - about half of them civilians - including the killing of 33 unarmed Turkish soldiers, who were dragged off a bus during what was supposed to be a PKK ceasefire in 1993.

[ image: Police broke up demonstrations in Istanbul earlier this week]
Police broke up demonstrations in Istanbul earlier this week
Even by the standards of a war which has been fought with extreme brutality on both sides, Semdin Sakik actions gained him notoriety.

He was one of the PKK's most feared commanders, with a reputation for ruthlessness - although at the time he was captured he had split from the PKK leadership.

The PKK has now declared another unilateral ceasefire, which began on Tuesday; but Turkey says negotiations are still out of the question.

Several hundred people, who tried to stage demonstrations in favour of a peaceful end to the conflict, have been arrested in the last few days.

[ image: PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan]
PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan
The Turkish authorities presented the capture of Mr Sakik, who'd fallen out with the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, as evidence that the Kurdish rebel movement was on the verge of collapse.

But clashes have continued throughout the summer - a long war of attrition, with casualties mounting slowly on both sides.

Semdin Sakik was arrested by Turkish special forces last April in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq.

He must have an enormous amount of inside information about the rebel movement, which will no doubt have been prised out of him.

But the authorities are still determined that he will face his own day in court.

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