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Friday, June 18, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK

World: Middle East

Military judge barred from Ocalan trial

The Ocalan trial has put Turkey's system under the spotlight

By Chris Morris in Ankara

The Turkish parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of amending the constitution in order to remove military judges from the country's state security court system.

The Ocalan File
The reform is a response to pressure both from home and abroad. Its most immediate impact is that a civilian judge is expected to replace a military officer in the trial of the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, which resumes next week.

State security courts in Turkey will now have three civilian judges, bringing them further into line with European legal standards which Turkey, as a member of the Council of Europe, has promised to uphold.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly condemned the state security court system, and called for the removal of the military judge.

Ocalan on trial

The trial of Abdullah Ocalan resumes next Wednesday on the prison island of Imrali and could be over by the end of the week. A substitute civilian judge has been following the trial since it began, and he is now expected to step in.

[ image: The Imrali trial will resume next week]
The Imrali trial will resume next week
Turkey is trying to blunt criticism of the trial in the West, and this is an important step in the right direction. But it's not the only issue, and questions about both the court and the judicial proceedings will continue.

Critics have complained repeatedly about the conditions under which Mr Ocalan is being held, particularly the fact that he has only been allowed to speak with his lawyers in the presence of soldiers wearing black ski masks.

The rebel leader is accused of treason and is expected to be sentenced to death.

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