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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 21:02 GMT


5,000 in Kurd protest march

Protesters march past the houses of Westminster

Thousands of Kurds have marched through central London in support of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The Ocalan File
A crowd of protesters from all over the UK, including women with children in pushchairs, walked from just off Whitehall along the Thames for a rally in Trafalgar Square.

The protest came the day after 79 Kurds appeared in court over the three-day occupation of the Greek Embassy in London.

Police said the demonstration was peaceful with no arrests.

The BBC's Andy Tighe reports on the demonstration
A wave of protests, in the UK and around the world, was sparked by the arrest of Mr Ocalan who was seized at the start of the week by Turkish security forces.

Marchers - police said there were up to 5,400 of them - carried pictures of Mr Ocalan, and waved Kurdish flags and placards bearing slogans such as "Stop arm sales to Turkey" and "Free Ocalan - free Kurdistan".

The BBC's Val Jones: The march comes at the end of an extraordinary week of protests
Several police officers carried fire extinguishers, apparently in case any demonstrators attempted to set themselves on fire - a 15-year-old schoolgirl suffered severe burns after setting herself on fire on the first day of the embassy protest.

The girl, Nejla Kanteper, is recovering after undergoing major skin surgery.

[ image: There is still anger about the seizure of Abdullah Ocalan]
There is still anger about the seizure of Abdullah Ocalan
The 79 Kurds arrested by police after the embassy siege were charged with violent disorder after appearing at Horseferry Road magistrates on Friday evening.

Seventy protesters were granted conditional bail and nine were remanded in custody after a four-hour session across four courtrooms.

Marchers tell the BBC's Andy Tighe "the Kurdish question is at last on the international agenda"
Friday's sitting 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.

Court cheers

[ image: There were cheers as the charged protesters left court]
There were cheers as the charged protesters left court
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.

The BBC's Alva McNicol reports from the court
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.

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18 Feb 99 | UK
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