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Chris Morris in Ankara
"Supporters of the death penalty were in a triumphant mood"
 real 28k

Chris Morris in Ankara
"There is still strong public support in favour of his execution"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 12:08 GMT
Ocalan death sentence upheld
Supporters of the death penalty cheered after the ruling was upheld Supporters of the death penalty cheered after the ruling was upheld

The Turkish appeals court has upheld the death sentence against the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

The Ocalan File
Ocalan, who led the PKK rebel movement in a 15-year war against the Turkish state, was sentenced to death last June after being found guilty of treason and held responsible for 30,000 deaths.

The sentence must now be endorsed by both the Turkish parliament, where there is a likely majority in favour, and President Suleyman Demirel, who is thought to be more reticent, before an execution can take place.

Mothers of killed Turkish soldiers Mothers of killed Turkish soldiers brandished pictures of their dead sons
Ocalan's lawyers are expected to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights who they hope will request a delay on proceedings inTurkey, possibly lasting up to two years.

Joy at decision

Outside the court building in the Turkish capital, Ankara, hundreds of relatives of soldiers who died in clashes with the PKK erupted into cheers of joy after the ruling was announced.

They chanted "Long Live Justice!" and "Listen Europe!"

What happens next
Ocalan lawyers plan to appeal to European Court of Human Rights
Case must go before Turkish Parliament for ratification
President Suleyman Demirel must also approve
Entire process could take up to two years
Some 1,000 people later marched to parliament chanting "Approve the Execution!"

One demonstrator climbed a tree holding a red Turkish flag and a portrait showing 51-year-old Ocalan with blood trickling from the sides of his mouth, poised over a savaged victim.

"Hang this infidel," he shouted.

"Hang! Hang! Hang!" the small crowd chanted back.

"Justice has been done," Orhan Pekmezci, a lawyer for families of soldiers killed in the campaign, said.

"But now Apo's (Ocalan's) lawyers will probably apply to the European Court of Human Rights and that will last at least two years."

European challenge

Hatice Korkut, a lawyer for Ocalan, said she expected the decision. "It doesn't surprise us," she said.

Anti-Ocalan poster Turkish grassroots opinion is in favour of execution
Mr Ocalan's lawyers had said before the announcement that if the death sentence was upheld, they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

They plan to request that the court recommend the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey. The court could ask Turkey to suspend its decision to execute until it arrives at a judgement, a process which could take many months.

Abiding by European pressure and not approving the death penalty would endanger the Turkish Republic's independence
Nationalist Movement Party
The BBC's Ankara correspondent, Chris Morris, says some Turkish officials, including the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, want to wait until the case has gone before the European court before the Ocalan case is presented to the Turkish parliament for ratification.

They hope time will allow tempers to cool as they believe execution would not be in Turkey's best interests. It could re-ignite domestic unrest and it would badly damage Turkey's relations with the European Union.

Pressure to hang

The country has not carried out a death sentence since 1984. Although Turkish courts have passed dozens of death sentences, the cases have remained in parliament.

But right-wing members of the ruling coalition are adamant the rebel leader must hang.

"Abiding by European pressure and not approving the death penalty would endanger the Turkish Republic's independence," Sefkat Cetin, deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, said.

"The person or organisation that causes this cannot remain in power. They will be toppled by the people."

Appeal decision

Ocalan's lawyers had asked for a retrial, saying that the rebel leader had been prevented from meeting with lawyers, had been kept inside a glass cage throughout the trial and that his capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya was illegal.

But, in its brief ruling, the appeal court stated that the previous trial had been held "in accordance with legal procedures."

Ocalan himself is still being held as the only inmate on the prison island of Imrali where his trial took place earlier this year.

He has since ordered members of the PKK to observe a ceasefire and withdraw from Turkish territory.

That has proved popular with ordinary Kurds in the south-east of the country who have had to endure 15 years of conflict, but the Turkish establishment has dismissed Mr Ocalan's call for peace as just another tactic designed to save his own skin.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Ocalan: Which way now?
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Kurds pin hopes on Europe
29 Jun 99 |  Europe
Abdullah Ocalan: Hate-figure and hero
17 Feb 99 |  Europe
Ocalan file: Timeline
24 Jun 99 |  Europe
Hatred for Ocalan runs high
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
PKK commander applies for asylum
03 Jun 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Face to face with Ocalan
04 Jun 99 |  Europe
Ocalan pleads for mercy
01 Jun 99 |  Europe
Turkey's trial of the century

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