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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 11:59 GMT
Kurds pin hopes on Europe
Supporters of the death sentence call for Ocalan to be hanged
Supporters of the death sentence call for Mr Ocalan to be hanged
Kurdish activists are hoping a European legal challenge will persuade the Turkish authorities not to execute the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Following a Turkish court ruling upholding the death sentence against the leader of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK), Kurdish exiles said they were optimistic over the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.


The death penalty for Ocalan means the denial of the Kurds and Kurdish politics

Agit Helbest, Kurdish official
Kurdish Information Centre UK spokesman Zinar Hogir said last year: "I think they will rule against the capital punishment in any case, and the Turkish Government shows signs that it would adhere to the position of the court."

But some said the court decision was a blow to all Kurds in Turkey.

"The death penalty for Ocalan means the denial of the Kurds and Kurdish politics ... I interpret this death penalty as the death penalty for all Kurds," the head of the Kurdish Information Centre in Amsterdam, Agit Helbest, said.

'Turkey will kill him'

Another took an even grimmer view, saying that the Turkish Government would, undoubtedly, hang the Kurdish leader.


Turkey will kill him, but they want to use him before the killing

Jawad Mella, president of the Kurdistan National Congress
"Turkey will kill him, but they want to use him before the killing, against his friends ... Wolves never stop eating sheep," Kurdistan National Congress president Jawad Mella said.

In Brussels, European Union officials have warned Turkey it must abolish its death penalty in order to join the Union, where capital punishment is banned under the EU Convention on Human Rights.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International called on the Turkish parliament to halt the execution.

"Abdullah Ocalan's execution would break a 15-year de facto moratorium on executions and open the door for more executions," it said.

"The resumption of executions in Turkey would be a blow for human rights in the country and a severe setback for total abolition in Europe."

Mothers of soliders killed in the 15-year war march to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk
Mothers of dead soldiers march to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk
After the original sentence was pronounced, families of Turkish soldiers killed in the 15-year conflict with the PKK were adamant the court's decision be carried out.

"Our martyrs have managed to capture Ocalan, now we have a request," one Turkish lawyer shouted.

"Dear prime minister, dear members of parliament, dear party leaders, dear president, this is the request of the great Turkish nation. Our only wish is that you apply the decision of our national judicial system."

The original death sentence in June last year sparked a number of demonstrations by Kurdish activists across Europe.

They occupied several diplomatic missions in Switzerland, including the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, and took some hostages. But all the protests ended peacefully.

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