EU court to hear Ocalan's appeal

Kurdish leader Abd Allah Ocalan's appeal is to be heard in a top EU court on Wednesday, after the same court had already ruled in his favour in March 2003.

    Ocalan was captured by Turkish special forces in 1999

    The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey in March last year for failing to give the former leader of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) a fair trial.


    is currently serving a life term in isolation in a remote island jail for treason. 

    It said in its non-binding ruling that his rights were violated by the lack of an "independent and impartial tribunal" and by being given the death penalty - a penalty that was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002.

    Ocalan, 55, was Turkey's most wanted man for nearly two decades over his role in the war for independence which left more than 37,000 people dead. 

    He was arrested in 1999 where prosecutors sought the death penalty under article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code for treason, extortion and seperatist activity. This resulted in a truce between the seperatists and the Turkish government.

    Life imprisonment

    His death penalty was lifted only after Turkey abolished capital punishment. For five years, Ocalan has been detained in Imrali in northwestern Turkey.

    He is currently the sole inmate of the jail on the Marmara Sea island, south of Istanbul.

    "Ocalan is bearing up with difficulty to the conditions in which he is living," one of his lawyers, Aysel Tugluk, told reporters on Tuesday.

    "To impose a death sentence on a person after an unfair trial
    was to subject that person wrongfully to
    the fear that he would
    be executed"

    European Court of Human Rights

    Last year's court ruling was seen as a blow to Turkey's efforts to improve its human rights record, regarded as a prerequisite for joining the European Union.

    "To impose a death sentence on a person after an unfair trial was to subject that person wrongfully to the fear that he would be executed," the court said, describing the sentence as a "form of inhuman treatment".

    EU membership

    The court also said that Turkey had violated the European Convention on Human Rights on other counts, notably by limiting access to his attorneys and case files, and having a military judge seated on the state security court that tried him.

    The court ordered Turkey to pay Ocalan's lawyers 100,000 euros ($123,000) for costs and expenses. Both sides appealed.

    The Turkish parliament adopted a series of amendments to the constitution in early May including abolishing state security courts to bring it in line with EU norms.

    Turkey has been trying to join the 25-member European Union, which will assess Turkey's democratisation process in December and decide whether to start accession talks with the predominantly Muslim nation.


    Tugluk said he hoped the court hearing would also defend "the cause of all the Kurdish people" and that their fate could be examined by another international jurisdiction "that surpasses the limits" of an individual appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

    Protests will coincide with the


    The Federation of Kurdish Associations of France has called a demonstration in Strasbourg on Wednesday to coincide with the appeal hearing.

    Organisers hope several thousand people will travel from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to take part.

    Truce anulled

    Ocalan's arrest has failed to crush the Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey. On Wednesday three seperatists were killed in clashes with the military. While more troops were called in to assist in hunting down a fourth suspect, a military vehicle overturned injuring 11 soldiers.

    According to the Anatolia news agency the four were from Ocalan's PKK party, which last week announced an end to a ceasefire declared in 1999 .

    The separatist PKK was disbanded in April 2002 and in its latest reincarnation is known as the Kurdistan People's Congress.



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