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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK


World: Europe

PKK warns Turkey over Ocalan

Mr Ocalan's lawyers want one week to prepare final arguments

Kurdish rebels have warned of a violent response if Turkey rejects a call for peace negotiations made by their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is on trial for treason.

The Ocalan File
The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) also warned against the implementation of a possible death sentence which Mr Ocalan faces, saying it would "mean suicide for the Turkish state".

Mr Ocalan's trial resumes on Tuesday on the prison island of Imrali after an adjournment of three days for prosecution lawyers to prepare final arguments.

The court is expected to grant the defence another week to prepare its final arguments.

Question of dialogue


[ image: Families of Turkish war dead have been calling for a death sentence]
Families of Turkish war dead have been calling for a death sentence
The call from the PKK comes after Turkey's powerful military said there had never been any contact with the PKK nor would there be.

A statement from the head of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) on Monday said assertions by Mr Ocalan at the beginning of his trial last week - that a high-ranking officer made contact with PKK members in Europe - were false and aimed at undermining the TAF.

"The TAF has never considered the PKK terrorist organisation as an interlocutor in its struggle against terrorism. Moreover, this is also not possible in the future," the statement said.

The reply, issued by the armed wing of the PKK, the Kurdistan People's Liberation Army (ARGK), called the possibility of Mr Ocalan's execution "crazy", and repeated his call for a peaceful solution to the 14-year conflict which has claimed some 30,000 lives.

Lawyers face charges

During the three-day adjournment lawyers representing the families of Turkish soldiers killed by the PKK attempted to open a case against Mr Ocalan's lawyers.

The families accuse the defence team of aiding the PKK, by reading out a PKK statement in court and accusing Turkey of sharing responsibility for the conflict between Turkey and Kurdish separatists in the south-east of the country.

Also on Monday, parliament debated policy proposals of the new Turkish Government, including one which would demilitarise the judicial system and bring about the removal of a military judge from the three-judge panel hearing the Ocalan trial.

The presence of the military judge has been one of the factors which have raised fears among human rights groups about Mr Ocalan's chances of a fair trial.

Ankara's Western allies have called on Turkey to ensure the Kurdish leader receives a fair trial and say they are watching developments closlely.

Stormy proceedings


[ image: Pro-Ocalan Kurdish demonstrations continue outside Turkey]
Pro-Ocalan Kurdish demonstrations continue outside Turkey
On Sunday, defence lawyers accused the court, the press and the families of Turkish war dead of working to foil their defence of Mr Ocalan.

But in parliament, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit rejected accusations made by Mr Ocalan's lawyers that they were being treated unfairly in court, calling the proceedings "unreproachable and unbiased".

The trial was adjourned on Friday after angry scenes in which prosecution lawyers were expelled from the courtroom.

At one point, a veteran soldier took off his false leg and brandished it in fury at Ocalan's lawyers, shouting: "Who will give me this leg back?"

On Thursday, defence lawyers boycotted proceedings, saying they and Mr Ocalan's family had nowhere to stay after being forced to leave their hotel on the mainland close to Imrali.

A verdict in the trial could come as early as next week.



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