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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK


World: Middle East

Ocalan speaks of peace

Mr Ocalan is expected to call for peace in his defence

The Kurdish separatist leader in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, on trial in connection with the deaths of thousands of people, has again spoken of his wish for a peaceful end to the violence between his group, the PKK, and the Turkish authorities.

The Ocalan File
Mr Ocalan said the Turkish Government should also take measures to end the conflict, such as allowing Kurdish language education and broadcasting - demands for which Kurds in Turkey have campaigned for decades.

Mr Ocalan also warned the court not to ignore his calls for peace.

"Mistrust, fear and hatred could bear more tragic consequences including a serious economic and social crisis," he said.


The BBC's Chris Morris: "The case against him seems clear cut"
Mr Ocalan was giving his final defence speech at the trial on the Imrali prison island near Istanbul.

He read from a pre-prepared final statement of about 40 pages, copies of which were distributed to journalists.

Lawyers' request refused

A request by his lawyers for a suspension of his trial - on the grounds that the composition of the bench had changed - was refused.


[ image: The outcome of the trial is anxiously awaited by many Kurds]
The outcome of the trial is anxiously awaited by many Kurds
The prosecution has asked for the death penalty to be imposed on Mr Ocalan who has led the PKK's 15-year armed campaign. Mr Ocalan faces charges of treason and separatism.

A verdict is expected before the end of the month.

Turks almost universally blame Mr Ocalan and his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for the deaths of 37,000 people during the fighting.

Wednesday's hearing on the heavily-guarded island of Imrali was delayed for almost two hours after stormy weather forced the boat carrying Ocalan's lawyers to turn back.

Navy rescue lawyers

The rebel leader's 12 lawyers and his relatives had to be rescued by the Turkish Navy.

The trial had been adjourned for two weeks to allow the defence to prepare its case, following the prosecution's closing remarks.


[ image: Mr Ocalan has tried to portray himself as a peacemaker]
Mr Ocalan has tried to portray himself as a peacemaker
The PKK has threatened to step up its fight against the Turkish state if Mr Ocalan were executed, and there have been further clashes in the mountains of south-eastern Turkey.

During six days of earlier hearings, Mr Ocalan tried to portray himself as a man who could bring peace to south-east Turkey.

Call for execution

His lawyers are expected to take the same approach in their final statements. But the team is thought to be facing an uphill task.

The prosecution has emphasised that the case against him is overwhelming and Mr Ocalan has not disputed many of the charges against him.

If he is convicted, the sentence will be automatically appealed and must be endorsed by parliament and approved by President Suleyman Demirel.

Mahmut Sakar, one of Mr Ocalan's defence lawyers, said his team would try to emphasise the need for a political solution to the root causes of the fighting.

Mr Sakar asked: "What will Turkey lose in the economic, social and cultural fields if this problem will not be solved?

"We will base our defence on the possible losses and gains."

The Kurdish question

Kurds have long called for more investment in the impoverished south-east, parts of which have been left devastated by the fighting.

They are also demanding a relaxation of the bans on broadcasting and teaching in Kurdish.

The Turkish parliament bowed to pressure from Europe on Friday and amended the constitution to remove military judges from all State Security Courts.

The move counters some complaints by human rights organisations, but is unlikely to satisfy critics who have also complained that Mr Ocalan was held for nine days without legal counsel and has since only been allowed to speak to his lawyers in the presence of soldiers.

Mr Ocalan's lawyers insist the process has not been fair, and they intend to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights if he is found guilty.

Meanwhile, the US State Department is suggesting Americans abroad should "review their personal security" and obtain the latest security information from a US embassy or consulate.

There were violent demonstrations in Europe and in other areas when Mr Ocalan was captured by Turkish forces in February in Kenya.

In a worldwide caution, the State Department said, without elaboration, that US government personnel and facilities were taking appropriate security measures.



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