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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK

World: Europe

Date set for Ocalan trial

Mr Ocalan was seized by Turkish special forces last February

A Turkish security court has set 31 May as the trial date for Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Ocalan, the sole prisoner on the prison island of Imrali, south of Istanbul, faces the death penalty if convicted on charges of treason and separatism.

The Turkish authorities know the trial will attract enormous interest abroad but have warned that they will not tolerate any attempt to interfere in their judicial system.

The Ocalan File
The trial will take place on Imrali for security reasons. The authorities fear attacks by Turks who lost relatives in the Kurds' 15-year fight for autonomy.

Some relatives of the dead demonstrated outside the court on Friday, draping themselves in Turkish flags, carrying pictures of their dead and shouting anti-Ocalan slogans.

Several broke through a police escort and punched one of Ocalan's 14 lawyers as he walked into the building.

An indictment presented on Wednesday holds Ocalan responsible for all acts of violence perpetrated by his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and blames him for the deaths of 9,818 civilians, soldiers, police officers and government-paid village guards.

Ocalan was already being tried in absentia in various cases. Prosecutors say the rebel leader has confessed to his crimes.

Fight for independence

Ocalan launched PKK's armed struggle for autonomy in south-east Turkey in 1984. Some 37,000 people have been killed in the fighting. He was arrested in February under an international warrant.

If Ocalan is sentenced to death, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party has said it will push parliament to approve the execution, something it has not done since 1984.

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