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Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 16:11 GMT

World: Europe

Ocalan charged with treason

Kurds around the world continue to demonstrate

A Turkish judge has charged the imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, with treason and attempting to divide the country.

The Ocalan File
State prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty at the end of the trial.

Mr Ocalan's first formal court appearance, before a single judge and no jury, was closed to the press.

None of the 15 human rights lawyers who applied to defend the Kurdish leader were permitted to see him.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Ankara: "Charges already outstanding against him"
The hearing took place at a high-security prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara, south of Istanbul, where Mr Ocalan has been held since he was captured in Kenya last week and brought back to Turkey.

Mr Ocalan has already been tried in his absence on similar charges.

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says Mr Ocalan's formal arrest marks the beginning of a new case against him.

The trial will be held by Ankara state security court, sitting in session on the prison island. The rebel leader will appear before three judges - one military and two civilian - with no jury.

No foreign observers

Turkey earlier rebuffed a European Union call to allow foreign observers to attend the trial.

BBC Correspondent Stephen Gibbs reports on Kurdish concerns over the impending trial of Mr Ocalan
"The EU's idea of sending observers to the trial means to approve and encourage interference in the independent judiciary," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

"This attitude which is against the principle of a state of law is not acceptable."

One of the lawyers who applied to represent Mr Ocalan, Osman Baydemir, has said he is concerned about the Turkish leader's health and the way he is being interrogated.

Meanwhile, in south-eastern Turkey, the security forces said they had killed 14 members of Mr Ocalan's PKK rebel movement.

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