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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 18:17 GMT

World: Europe

Greek ministers resign over Ocalan

"Chaos in the government" - Greek papers

Three Greek cabinet ministers have resigned over their handling of the Ocalan affair as protests continue by Kurdish demonstrators.

The Ocalan File
The Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and the ministers of public order and the interior were quitting amid accusations that they had "mishandled" the case.

Mr Ocalan had been in the care of the Greek authorities in Kenya at the time of his capture on Monday in as yet unexplained circumstances.

Jeremy Bowen in Anarka: "The Turks say they will deal with Ocelan in their own way"
Immediately after the news of his arrest, Greek embassies around the world were besieged by Mr Ocalan's supporters.

As preparations are made to put Mr Ocalan on trial, the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has promised that he will be safe in Turkish custody, and would receive a fair hearing.

Turkish Prime Minster Bulent Ecevit: He will not be badly treated
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Ecevit said foreign countries had no right to interfere, and no-one should criticise Turkey for putting him on trial.

Reacting to the resignations in Greece, Mr Ecevit said Greece was paying the price for helping the PKK and that should be a lesson to any country which supports terrorism.

Kurd protests go on

Kurdish activists angry at the arrest have continued their protests across Europe.

In Germany, Kurdish protestors have carried out several attacks on Turkish interests there, despite a warning that they face expulsion if the violence does not stop.

[ image:  ]
At the Greek embassy in London the Kurds have ended their three-day protest and given themselves up to the police.The group of 40-50 protesters walked out of the building one by one with their hands raised.

Mr Ocalan's supporters consider him a hero for leading the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (the PKK) its fight for a Kurdish homeland in Turkey. Turkey says he is a criminal responsible for more than 29,000 deaths.

He had been in Kenya for two weeks before his arrest, hiding at the Greek ambassador's residence. He was captured by Turkish commandos on Monday.

Pictures of humiliation

Turkey released more pictures of Mr Ocalan on Thursday.

He was shown blindfolded and handcuffed being transported to an island prison on a Turkish naval frigate.

[ image: Kurd leader in front of Turkish flags: Symbol of Turkey's victory]
Kurd leader in front of Turkish flags: Symbol of Turkey's victory
Mr Ocalan faces murder and terrorism charges which carry the death penalty. He is expected to make his first court appearance in the next few days.

He has been flown to a high-security island prison in the Sea of Marmara, south of Istanbul. Other prisoners are being moved to the mainland to leave him in solitary confinement.

Three European lawyers hoping to represent Mr Ocalan at his trial in Turkey have been refused entry to the country.

Britta Boehler: "Trial could be as short as two weeks"
One of them, Britta Boehler, said: "If Turkey gets its will, Mr Ocalan will be tortured and humiliated to break him.

"Then he will be brought before the court, convicted and the death penalty will be passed and executed."

Kurds arrested

On the back of the seizure of Mr Ocalan, Turkey has launched a fresh crackdown on Kurdish dissent.

Iain Simpson reports on Ocalan's fete
The leading human rights group in Turkey says hundreds of Kurdish activists have been arrested there following the capture of the separatist leader.

Many of those detained are members of the main pro-Kurdish political party, Hadep, which the Turkish authorities accuse of acting as the political wing of the PKK.

There has also been further violence in Istanbul, where a number of vehicles were set alight and several buildings attacked.

[ image:  ]
Turkey is also stepping up the pressure on Kurds outside its borders.

Troops are currently in northern Iraq in an operation against Kurdish guerrilla bases.

A Turkish military spokesman described the incursion as a small operation against terrorists. But eye-witnesses said up to 4,000 troops with armoured vehicles were involved.

Correspondents say the aim may be to prevent Kurdish fighters from avenging their leader's capture.

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