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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 23:25 GMT
Inquiry into Ocalan 'poisoning'
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

Abdullah Ocalan. File photo
Abdullah Ocalan is serving a life sentence for treason
Turkey's justice ministry has ordered an investigation into claims the jailed Kurdish separatist leader, Abdullah Ocalan, may have been poisoned.

Ocalan's lawyers say tests showed high levels of toxic metals which could not have entered his body naturally.

Turkish officials have suggested the lawyers are trying to revive international interest in their client, held in prison in Turkey since 1999.

The officials said Ocalan has shown no signs of serious illness.

'Abnormally high levels'

Lawyers acting for Abdullah Ocalan say they sent strands of his hair for analysis after the prisoner complained of ill health and said he suspected he was being poisoned.

They have now produced a laboratory report from France that records chronic intoxication showing abnormally high levels of the metal chromium and eight times the normal level of strontium.

A further report says systematic exposure to radioactive strontium can increase the risk of cancer and affect the immune system.

A lawyer for the Kurdish separatist leader claimed the metals could not have entered his client's body naturally.

The Turkish justice ministry says it has ordered an investigation, but has stressed that Mr Ocalan benefits from the same rights as all prisoners including regular medical checks and has shown no sign of serious illness.

The ministry statement suggested the lawyers were trying to revive international interest in their client after the Council of Europe ruled last month that the rebel leader was not entitled to a retrial.

Abdullah Ocalan has been in isolation in prison on an island close to Istanbul since his capture in Kenya eight years ago.

He was found guilty of treason for leading an armed separatist campaign in Turkey in which more than 30,000 people died.

His lawyers have often expressed concern about his health in the past, usually demanding that he be moved out of solitary confinement.

Profile: Abdullah Ocalan
13 May 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
25 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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