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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 10:35 GMT

World: Europe

Turkey shootout over Ocalan

Turks celebrate the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan

Kurdish activists and Turkish police have clashed in the country's most violent incident since Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested on Monday night.

The Ocalan File
Three policemen and 15 demonstrators were injured in an exchange of fire in the southern town of Ceyhan, home to many Kurdish refugees who fled fighting in the south-east of the country.

The BBC's Paul Royall: "Hundreds of activists have been arrested"
Police have already detained more than 350 Kurdish activists in Istanbul.

But the PKK - the group led by Mr Ocalan - has issued a defiant and threatening statement, saying any kind of violence would be justified in Turkey - although future protests in the rest of Europe would be peaceful.

[ image:  ]
The Turkish authorities have begun to question Mr Ocalan, who is being held at a high-security island prison in the Sea of Marmara, south of Istanbul - where he was due to be the only inmate.

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

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says the battle-lines have been clearly drawn.

Ocalan 'to get fair trial'

Chris Morris in Ankara: "Demonstrators fought running battles with the police"
In the face of mounting international pressure for a fair trial, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has given a personal assurance that Mr Ocalan will be safe in Turkish custody - but warned against outside support of the PKK.

Speaking in a BBC interview, Mr Ecevit said no one should criticise Turkey for putting him on trial, and foreign countries had no right to interfere.

He said Greece had paid the price for helping the PKK - a reference to the resignation of three Greek ministers on Thursday over the Ocalan affair. Mr Ecevit said that should be a lesson to any country which supports terrorism.

Turkish Prime Minster Bulent Ecevit: He will not be badly treated
"I'm sure now the PPK movement has reached a dead end. It will be very difficult for it to survive what has happened to its leader Ocalan," he said.

He said Kurds in south-eastern Turkey would be offered more economic assistance but there would never be political autonomy.

Pictures of humiliation

Turkey released more pictures of Mr Ocalan on Thursday.

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

Mr Ocalan, who faces murder and terrorism charges which carry the death penalty, is expected to make his first court appearance in the next few days.

Concern over Turkish response

International human rights groups have voiced concern about Turkey's treatment of both Mr Ocalan and other Kurdish activists.

Lawyers acting for Mr Ocalan have lodged an appeal on his behalf with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

They say Turkey has violated Mr Ocalan's right to a fair trial and protection from torture.

Britta Boehler: "Trial could be as short as two weeks"
One of the lawyers, Britta Boehler, said Turkey wanted to torture Mr Ocalan and then execute him.

The lawyers have had no access to their client since his capture. They were turned back from Istanbul airport on Wednesday.

Across the border in northern Iraq, thousands of Turkish troops are attacking PKK camps.

A Turkish military spokesman said the incursion was a small operation against terrorists. But eyewitnesses 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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