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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK

World: Europe

Decision on Ocalan appeal delayed

Ocalan was sentenced for treason and separatism

Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan will have to wait until 25 November to know whether his death sentence has been overturned.

The Ocalan File
Turkey's High Court of Appeal said the delay was because of "the scope of the trial" and the need to study numerous case files.

Mr Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was sentenced to death by a state security court on 29 June.

He remains incarcerated on the prison island of Imrali, south of Istanbul, and did not appear at the hearing.

At Thursday's appeal hearing, Mr Ocalan's lawyers argued that the sentence should be commuted because he had repented.

The BBC's Chris Morris: Many people still want the PKK's leader to go to the gallows
The defence also argues that he should have been tried under a different section of the Turkish penal code, which would have meant that the death penalty could not be applied.

In addition, they intend to refer to a report published last week by the European Commission, which said it hoped better relations between Turkey and the EU would not be spoiled by a decision to go ahead with Mr Ocalan's execution.

[ image: Turkish forces have fought a bitter war with Ocalan's PKK rebels]
Turkish forces have fought a bitter war with Ocalan's PKK rebels
But most observers expect the court to uphold the original verdict.

If the death sentence is confirmed, it would then be up to the Turkish parliament to decide whether it should actually be carried out.

Ankara blames Mr Ocalan for tens of thousands of deaths during his PKK rebel movement's 15-year armed campaign for Kurdish autonomy.

Campaign for peace

Mr Ocalan was sentenced for treason and separatism after a dramatic trial in a specially-built courtroom on Imrali, where he has been held as the only inmate since his capture in February.

From his prison cell, Mr Ocalan has launched what he called the "campaign for peace", ordering his PKK rebels to withdraw from Turkey.

Many people are still in favour of sending him to the gallows but others believe Turkey would pay too high a price in terms of condemnation from abroad.

Abdullah Ocalan continues to stir strong emotions among friend and foe alike.

Meanwhile, an extremist underground Islamic group is reported to have claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed former culture minister, academic and journalist Ahmet Taner Kislali in Ankara on Thursday.

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