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World - Middle East

Ocalan to base defense on request for cease-fire

March 18, 1999
Web posted at: 10:39 p.m. EDT (2239 GMT)

In this story:

Turks dismiss peace overtures

Israel, West take precautions after bomb attacks


ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said Thursday a cease-fire call he made last year would form the basis of his defense when a Turkish court tries him on treason charges.

"The position which we have developed since the 1993 cease-fire was last reiterated in the cease-fire on September 1, 1998. I will make my defense in court along these lines," Ocalan said in a written statement made available by his defense team.

It was the first statement by Ocalan, 51, since Turkish security forces captured him last month in Kenya.

He faces a possible death sentence on treason charges for leading a 15-year-old armed struggle by Kurdish rebels for self-rule in southeast Turkey. Well over 30,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.

Turks dismiss peace overtures as ruse

His Kurdistan Workers Party declared unilateral cease-fires in 1993, 1995 and 1998 and has made a series of other calls for a halt to hostilities. Ankara has dismissed them as tactical ruses, called sometimes before the winter, when operations are difficult.

The influential Turkish military, in apparent response to Ocalan's declaration that he would portray himself as a peacemaker at his trial, said it would never negotiate with him.

"While combating terrorism, the General Staff has never negotiated with the bloody terrorist organization, and it is not possible to do so in the future," the state-run Anatolian news agency quoted the military as saying in a statement.

Ankara has always refused to negotiate with Ocalan, whom it regards as a terrorist or common criminal.

He is the sole inmate of an island prison in the Marmara Sea, south of Istanbul. Turkish courts are already hearing several cases against Ocalan, which are set to be combined in one trial and transferred to the island. It was not clear when the trial would begin.

Israel, West take precautions after bomb attacks

Ocalan said the rebels were committed to peaceful political compromise, but the PKK has said it will step up its armed conflict. Israel and some Western nations have taken steps to avoid violence growing in Istanbul since Ocalan's arrest.

El Al Israel Airlines, citing security concerns, on Thursday canceled flights to and from Turkey. France, Germany and Britain warned their citizens this week to take extra care while visiting Turkey after deadly bomb attacks in the Turkish capital and Kurdish guerrilla threats against tourists.

In the latest violence Thursday, unknown attackers threw a bomb at a building in Istanbul and injured four people, Anatolian news agency said. They lobbed the weapon at a meeting place for migrants. Separately, unknown attackers damaged a gas truck with a fire bomb, but there were no casualties.

Police attribute the wave of sometimes lethal attacks to Kurdish rebels. The PKK has denied responsibility.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Lawyers meet briefly with Ocalan in prison
February 25, 1999
Turkey charges Ocalan with treason
February 23, 1999
Turkish leader rules out Kurdish autonomy
February 21, 1999
Turkish prime minister offers amnesty to Kurdish rebels
February 20, 1999

TIME Daily: Ocalan, Turkey and the Kurds
Kurdistan Workers Party Information
The Republic of Turkey
President of the Turkish Republic
The Center for Kurdish Political Studies
Terrorist acts by the PKK
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