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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT

World: Europe

EU urges fair Ocalan trial

Abdullah Ocalan's capture has raised human rights concerns

The European Union has called on Turkey to allow international observers to attend the trial of the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The Ocalan File
The EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, have condemned terrorism, but also urged Turkey to guarantee the Kurdish leader a fair trial, and allow him access to lawyers of his own choice.

The EU statement came after Turkey issued its strongest warning so far against European interference in the case.

The EU ministers said that, while they accepted Turkey's territorial integrity, they expected it to resolve its problems by political means with full respect for human rights.

They called on Turkey not to apply the death penalty.

Mr Ocalan is now in an isolated Turkish island prison, where he remains in solitary confinement, under interrogation.

There have been further protests against the capture of Mr Ocalan both in Turkey and abroad.

Foreign pressure 'unacceptable'

BBC's Chris Morris explains Turkey's position
Earlier - in remarks apparently directed at the EU - Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said his government needed no advice on how to conduct the trial.

"We would consider such attempts an unacceptable affront to Turkish justice," Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told a news conference on Sunday.

[ image:  ]
Mr Ecevit has given a personal assurance that Mr Ocalan will be safe in Turkish custody.

BBC Ankara correspondent Christopher Morris says senior Turkish officials are becoming increasingly angry with comments made in Europe about the Ocalan case.

The Turks believe Europe should spend less time criticising their judicial system and more time asking why, as they see it, Greece has been co-operating with international terrorism.

Growing concern

There is growing concern about how Mr Ocalan may be treated and about the campaign Turkey has launched against any form of Kurdish dissent.

Earlier, the Italian Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, called on the EU to press Turkey to ensure that Abdullah Ocalan received a fair trial; Greece has appealed to the European Union to safeguard the rebel leader.

[ image: Turkey steps up security in Diyarbakir]
Turkey steps up security in Diyarbakir
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.

However, the Turkish prime minister has advanced a view commonly held in Turkey, that supporting autonomy or minority rights for the Kurds amounts to racism, because Kurds benefit by full assimilation into Turkish society.

"In contrast to the racist heritage and tendencies of certain European nations, we have had no concept of racial differentiation," he said.

There have been scenes of sporadic violence in Istanbul, and reports of nightly demonstrations by Mr Ocalan's supporters in Diyarbakir and other population centres in the mainly Kurdish south-east.

A number of foreign journalists have been turned back at Diyarbakir airport after being told that they are no longer allowed to visit the region.

Across the border in northern Iran, protests by Kurds forced the closure of the Turkish consulate in Urumieh and led to serious clashes with the Iranian security forces.

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