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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 18:40 GMT


Courts hear embassy siege cases

Kurds end their three-day protest outside the Greek Embassy

Kurds arrested by police following a three-day siege at the Greek Embassy in London have appeared in court charged with violent disorder offences.

The Ocalan File
Seventy protesters were granted conditional bail and nine were remanded in custody after a four-hour session across four courtrooms at Horseferry Road magistrates.

The 74 men and five women were charged with violent disorder under Section 2(1) of the Public Order Act 1986 following the three-day siege in protest at the arrest by Turkish troops of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar: "Angry protests continue across Europe"
Friday's sitting, which began just before 2000 and ended at midnight, started chaotically when the Crown Prosecution Service lodged an appeal against all decisions to grant bail.

CPS lawyers eventually applied for only some of the 79 to be kept in custody.

The BBC's Alva McNicol reports from the proceedings
Alexia Power outlined the case for the Crown, saying demonstrators stormed the Greek Embassy and kept a caretaker hostage.

The first to appear, Ali Yesilakaya, was accused of using "threats of unlawful violence" between 16 and 18 February at the embassy in Holland Park, west London.

Mr Yesilakaya was granted conditional bail and told to return to the court on 26 February.

Those released left the court to cheers from about 100 supporters outside.

In most cases the bail was conditional with restrictions including the surrender of passports and that defendants did not go within 100m of any high commission, embassy or consulate.

Demonstrators disperse

Earlier, demonstrators outside the embassy started dispersing.

Hundreds of Kurds had maintained a vigil outside the embassy following the arrests on Thursday because they believed the police were considering terrorism charges.

[ image: Protesters being taken into custody]
Protesters being taken into custody
But on Friday afternoon a Kurdish spokesman said they had been told the activists would only be charged with public order offences.

Spokesman Zinar Hogir said: "Under these circumstances the protesters have decided to end this demonstration."

The Greek Ambassador to London, Vassilis Zafiropoulos, said he thought the protest had damaged the Kurdish cause.

"We are very happy and grateful to the police force that this situation came to an end without loss of human life," he added.

Speaking for the demonstrators inside the embassy earlier, the Kurdish Information Centre's Zinar Hogir said the UK Home Office had agreed to monitor Mr Ocalan's trial in Turkey by sending observers.

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