Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK

World: Europe

Ocalan faces Turkish justice

Abdullah Ocalan pleads for his life in a Turkish military court

The trial of the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has begun on the heavily-guarded prison island of Imrali.

The Ocalan File
Mr Ocalan has been charged with treason and attempting to divide the state by force. If convicted, he faces a mandatory death penalty.

In excerpts from the trial shown on state-run television, Mr Ocalan told the court: "I share the grief of the families of the martyrs, and I promise here that from now on I will work for the establishment of peace.''

Tom Kankinen in Turkey: Mr Ocalan said he was ready to serve the state in order to work for peace
Pleading to be spared the death penalty, Mr Ocalan said: "For peace and brotherhood I am ready to serve the Turkish state, and I believe that for this end I must remain alive.''

The hearing began after the court rejected a request by Mr Ocalan's lawyers to adjourn the trial. They say they have been hampered in preparing his defence.

Heavy security around Imrali island

Security has been intensified on and around Imrali island, which lies in the Sea of Marmara, 70km south of Istanbul. Mr Ocalan is the only inmate at the prison.

Chris Morris in Turkey: Conciliation is not on the agenda
Heavily-armed troops are maintaining a military exclusion zone around the island; warships and helicopters are also on patrol. During the trial, Mr Ocalan will sit inside a specially-built bullet-proof glass cage.

Mr Ocalan's arrest and trial has polarised opinion in Turkey.

His supporters were outraged when he was captured in February and brought back to Turkey under restraints. There were angry Kurdish protests in cities across the world.

[ image: Ocalan: Facing military justice]
Ocalan: Facing military justice
But many in Turkey hold him personally responsible for causing thousands of deaths during the 15-year armed struggle by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

There have been many demonstrations calling for his execution, especially by families who have lost relatives in the violence.

Lawyers' complaints

Mr Ocalan's lawyers have complained that they have been denied proper access to their client, and that they themselves have been beaten by police.

[ image: Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu: Off the case]
Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu: Off the case
One prominent lawyer, Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu, has withdrawn from the defence team.

He says his client will not get a fair trial, and that he does not want Mr Ocalan's death on his conscience.

Mr Ocalan's lawyers are contesting a comprehensive 139-page indictment.

They say they will argue that, if their client is executed, the war between the Turkish government and the PKK, which has already claimed 37,000 lives, will only escalate.

Questions over military justice

The trial has prompted debate in Turkey over military trials. The Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, has said he wants to do away with the military presence in the judicial process.

[ image: Security is intense around Imrali island]
Security is intense around Imrali island
He and other leading politicians have acknowledged that the country is open to international criticism unless the court is restructured.

The European Court for Human Rights has repeatedly stressed that civilians should not be tried by a serving military officer because it undermines the independence of the court process.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

30 May 99 | Europe
Turkey's trial of the century

20 Feb 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
The story of Ocalan's arrest

05 May 99 | Europe
Ocalan lawyers threaten to quit

28 Apr 99 | Europe
Charges mount against Ocalan

20 Apr 99 | Europe
Ocalan prosecutors call for death sentence

17 Feb 99 | Europe
Turkish justice in the spotlight

Internet Links

Kurdistan Information Network

Kurdish Workers' Party

Republic of Turkey

Ocalan Defence Team

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift