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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 23:02 GMT

World: Europe

Prison island trial for Ocalan

Relatives of PKK victims created a tense atmosphere at the Ankara court

A Turkish court has ruled that the imprisoned Kurdish separatist leader, Abdullah Ocalan, must stand trial on the island where he is currently imprisoned.

The Ocalan File
Mr Ocalan has been kept as the sole inmate on the heavily guarded Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara since his capture by Turkish commandos in Kenya last month.

Citing security concerns, a state security court in Ankara has ruled that Mr Ocalan should remain there to stand trial.

Mr Ocalan faces treason charges and a possible death sentence for leading the Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) 14-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule.

The state security court has been trying the rebel leader in his absence since 1997 on charges of murder and inciting terrorist attacks. The series of proceedings underway against him are expected to be consolidated into the full treason trial to be held on the island.

Defense bid fails

[ image: Mr Ocalan's lawyers escaped via a back window]
Mr Ocalan's lawyers escaped via a back window
The decision to locate the trial on the island came despite a bid from Mr Ocalan's lawyers to have him moved elsewhere. The ministry argued that Ocalan's life would be in danger if he was to be moved.

It is expected that the trial could start after prosecutors prepare a new indictment based on what they say are his confessions during interrogation.

The court adjourned the current trial in Ankara to 30 April and said it would ask the Justice Ministry to make necessary preparations for the consolidated hearing.

The trial will take place in a court room being built on the prison island.

Lawyers complain

One of the lawyers representing Mr Ocalan in court, Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu, complained that reaching the island was difficult and that lawyers were not allowed to confer with their client in private.

[ image: Protestors outside court waved Turkish flags and held photos of loved ones]
Protestors outside court waved Turkish flags and held photos of loved ones
"We are allowed to see him twice a week for an hour each time. That leaves us no time to prepare for his defence," Mr Okcuoglu said.

The atmosphere outside the court was tense as relatives of soldiers and police killed in the Kurdish conlict shouted insults at Mr Ocalan's lawyers.

A request by hundreds of relatives of people killed in the conflict seeking to join the case as plaintiffs was unanimously approved by the three-judge panel.

Althoug Mr Ocalan faces a possible death sentence, Turkey has not executed anyone since 1984. Such a verdict would need ratification by both parliament and the president.

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