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World - Middle East

Turkish prosecutors rest case, demand that Ocalan hang

Treason trial resumes June 23

June 8, 1999
Web posted at: 9:52 a.m. EDT (1352 GMT)

In this story:

Rebels: Execution would be 'suicide' for Turkey

Nationalist bloc vows to uphold death sentence


IMRALI ISLAND, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish prosecutors demanded the death sentence Tuesday for Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, disregarding threats that his execution would lead to an escalation in the guerrilla war he admits unleashing.

In his closing argument at Ocalan's treason trial, prosecuting attorney Cevdet Volkan told the court that the separatist leader had admitted responsibility "for all actions of the terrorist organization" and "causing more deaths than he is accused of."

"With the aim of establishing an independent state on Turkish territory, (Ocalan) formed and led the armed gang ... which carried out thousands of terrorist attacks, ruthlessly killed tens of thousands of people and left as many disabled," Volkan said.

The court then adjourned for 15 days to give Ocalan's lawyers time to prepare for his final defense. A verdict is expected toward the end of this month.

The 50-year-old Ocalan is accused of treason and responsibility for the deaths of more than 30,000 Turkish troops, civilians and Kurdish rebels killed since his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984.

Turkey has ruled out any talks with rebel Kurds, despite a series of peace offers from Ocalan. The state has repeatedly labeled Ocalan's fighters, who are demanding autonomy in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast, as terrorists.

Ocalan is widely expected to be sentenced to hang. If parliament endorses his sentence, he would be the first person executed in Turkey since 1984.

Rebels: Execution would be 'suicide' for Turkey

The PKK warned late Monday that it would be "suicide for the Turkish state" if their leader is executed.

"All forms of struggle to defend the national honor, pride and cause of the Kurdish people would then be legitimate," the rebels said.

In his first public address in Turkey since his rebels took up arms, Ocalan admitted responsibility for plunging Turkey into a separatist war, Turkey's state-run media reported.

However, he denied ordering some of the most high-profile actions that the PKK is accused of, including the 1993 slaughter of 33 Turkish soldiers in the southeastern province of Bingol and the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Ocalan offered to help negotiate an end to the fighting and bring the guerrillas down from the barren mountains of southeast Turkey in return for his life being spared.

Nationalist bloc vows to uphold death sentence

Turkey's hard-line nationalists, the second biggest bloc in parliament and a partner in a newly formed coalition government, said they would back a death sentence for Ocalan if one arrived in the assembly for ratification.

Ocalan has been standing trial in a bulletproof, bombproof cage inside a theater on the prison island of Imrali, where he is the only inmate.

In the last hearing on Friday, the three-judge panel rejected key demands by Ocalan's defense attorneys, including a request to invite former Turkish prime ministers to testify that the rebel leader had been seeking peace.

Kurdish guerrillas have staged sporadic attacks during the trial, which opened last week.

Turkish troops killed seven rebels in clashes in the southeastern province of Siirt, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported Tuesday. It was not clear when the fighting took place.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Ocalan trial adjourns after angry courtroom scene
June 4, 1999
Ocalan trial resumes in Turkey
June 1, 1999
Turkey marks eve of Ocalan trial with security clampdown
May 30, 1999

The Ocalan Trial
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
Human Rights Watch
European Court of Human Rights
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