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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 19:08 GMT


World: Europe

Kurdish arrests 'reach 1,000'

Kurdish anger in Tehran outside the Turkish embassy

Human rights groups say more than 1,000 Kurdish activists have now been arrested in Turkey as the authorities try to end protests against the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader.

The Ocalan File
The man at the centre of the drama is still being questioned on a high security prison island south of Istanbul.

But prosecutors were prevented from reaching the island of Imrali after violent snowstorms meant neither sea nor air transport to the island were safe, the Anatolia news agency reported.


The BBC's Paul Royall: "Hundreds of activists have been arrested"
Local press reports say his trial is also expected to take place on the island from which all other inmates have been evacuated.

Mr Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was arrested by Turkish agents in Kenya on Tuesday after a fortnight staying in the Greek embassy in Nairobi.


[ image:  ]
On Thursday there were violent clashes between Kurdish activists and the Turkish police. The town of Cizre near the Iraqi border which has been a focus for Kurdish unrest in the past is still described as being under curfew.

An unknown number of prisoners in jails across the country are reported to be on hunger strike.


Correspondent Chris Morris: Kurdish authorities do not want Ocalan's trial to drag on
About 10,000 troops are involved in military action directed against PKK bases in northern Iraq, Turkish newspapers reported on Friday.

Correspondents say Turkey wants to capitalise on its arrest of Mr Ocalan by attacking now-leaderless PKK forces and destroying guerrilla bases from where PKK operations are launched.

Baghdad, which has nominal sovereignty over northern Iraq but no presence there, has strongly condemned the Turkish incursion.

Ocalan trial concerns

There have been international calls for Mr Ocalan to receive a fair trial in Turkey, which has in the past been accused of human rights abuses.


Turkish Prime Minster Bulent Ecevit: He will not be badly treated
The 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 countries which refused to try Mr Ocalan after he had left Syria were not in a position to criticise Turkey.

Human rights groups have accused Turkey of already violating the law by refusing Mr Ocalan access to a lawyer of his own choosing.


[ 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
Meanwhile the Netherlands-based lawyer who is part of the international team representing Mr Ocalan accused Washington and Athens of having had a hand in his capture by Turkey. Both deny involvement.

The defence team was not allowed into Turkey when its members arrived on Wednesday.

Britta Boehler told an Arabic newspaper on Friday that there was solid information about intelligence co-operation between the US and Greece to get Mr Ocalan out of Europe where it would be easier for him to be snatched.

Protests continue

Demonstrations against Turkey, Greece, and the United States and Israel, which many Kurds believe to have been involved in Mr Ocalan's abduction, have continued in various cities with Kurdish populations.

In Lebanon, about 3,000 Kurds, some of whom travelled from Syria, marched through the centre of the capital, Beirut.


[ image:  ]
Turkey accused Syria of supporting the PKK, which could have led to armed conflict in October 1998 if Abdullah Ocalan had not left Damascus where he was based.

In Iran, there have been protests in the capital Tehran and the city of Urumiyeh near the border with Turkey in Iran's Kurdish region.

One report said more than 2,000 Kurds demonstrated outside the Turkish embassy shouting "Turkey we will burn you."

Demonstrations are continuing outside the Greek embassy in London after Thursday's arrest of 77 protesters who had occupied the building.

On Wednesday, Israeli security guards shot dead three protesters who were among dozens of Kurdish activist who had stormed the Israeli consulate in Berlin.



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