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Sunday, December 6, 1998 Published at 21:13 GMT

World: Europe

Ocalan puts conditions on trial

Turkish citizens in Germany on Saturday demanding the extradition of Mr Ocalan

The Kurdish separatist leader, Abdullah Ocalan says he is willing to face trial in an international court on charges linked to his fight for independence from Turkey.

Mr Ocalan, who is currently under house arrest in Italy, told German television (ZDF) that the court would decide whether his group, the PKK, or the Turkish state was responsible for the 14-year separatist war.

He also said he wanted to testify about links that he said the Turkish secret service and army had with Turkish nationalist and Islamic militants.

His lawyer, Giuliano Pisapia, quoted by Reuters news agency, said Mr Ocalan believed such a trial would give him a chance to prove his innocence.

"I am ready to go in front of an international tribunal, made up of independent judges, to see whether we or the Turkish government are responsible for the escalation of armed conflict which has led to thousands of deaths on both sides," Mr Ocalan said.

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Ankara blames the PKK for the 14-year conflict and has demanded Mr Ocalan should stand trial in Turkey and opposes an international trial.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said in Rome on Saturday that such a trial would "simply become a forum to politicise the case."

Italy has refused to hand over Mr Ocalan to Turkey because Italian law forbids the extradition of prisoners to countries where they might face the death penalty - as is the case with the Kurdish leader in Turkey.

Rome and Bonn have proposed an international tribunal to try Mr Ocalan - a suggestion which has angered Ankara. Germany, which had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ocalan over alleged crimes on German soil, declined to seek his extradition, for fear of provoking trouble between Turks and Kurds living inside Germany.

Since 1984, the Kurdish People's Party (PKK), led by Mr Ocalan, has been fighting for an independent Kurdish homeland in south-eastern Turkey, in a war that has killed 37,000 people.

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