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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK

World: Europe

High drama at Ocalan trial

More than 2,500 Turkish soldiers' families are represented

The trial of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has been adjourned following a highly emotional courtroom confrontation.

The Ocalan File
The decision by the chief judge to halt the trial until Tuesday came after a defence lawyer requested that relatives of dead Kurdish militants be allowed to address the court.

The suggestion provoked uproar among the families of dead Turkish soldiers, who have been allowed to sit in on the trial at the high security prison island of Imrali.

The BBC's Chris Morris: "Emotions came close to breaking point"
During the protests, one veteran soldier brandished his false leg above his head in fury at Mr Ocalan's lawyers while others hurled abuse at the rebel leader in the dock.

Reports said some 20 soldiers had to move in and cordon off a section of the court to prevent angry relatives clashing with the defence team.

Several lawyers representing the soldiers' families were ejected from the room before the chief judge rejected the defence team's request.

Ocalan: Give us a chance

Tens of thousands of people have died in the 15-year-old struggle between Turkish security forces and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is lead by Mr Ocalan.

The dramatic scenes on the fifth day of the trial followed a boycott by defence lawyers over security concerns on Thursday.

[ image: Ocalan: Accused of treason]
Ocalan: Accused of treason
Mr Ocalan, who is facing charges of treason, addressed the court alone, asking to be spared the death penalty so that he could work for peace.

"This is about Turkey's future. Whatever our mistakes and our sins, give us a chance. Let's unite," he said.

He appears to be concentrating on trying to save his own life and on conciliation with his former enemies. He says now is the time for peace and the state cannot achieve it without him.

But the BBC's correspondent in Ankara, Chris Morris, says time is running out for the PKK leader to convince the court where the trial is moving faster than expected.

'Show trial'

At the next hearing on Tuesday, state prosecutors will begin presenting their closing arguments. After that there is likely to be a further adjournment before the defence presents its closing remarks.

[ image: The trial is on a high security prison island]
The trial is on a high security prison island
The PKK has denounced the court proceedings as a show trial designed to belittle their leader in order to satisfy the relatives of dead Turkish soldiers.

A statement carried by the Kurdish DEM news agency said that the trial ignored the suffering inflicted on Kurdish families by the Turkish security forces.

During the trial, which began on Monday, the Kurdish leader has apologised for the deaths of several thousand members of the Turkish security forces in the struggle with the PKK since 1985.

He has also offered to abandon the armed struggle, but warned the PKK, which he leads, could escalate the conflict if necessary.

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