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Kurdish leader challenges death sentence
STRASBOURG, France -- The European Court of Human Rights is hearing an appeal by Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan against his death sentence.
A Turkish court in June last year sentenced Ocalan to death for leading a 15-year war for autonomy in south-eastern Turkey. The fighting killed about 37,000 people -- mostly Kurds.
Ocalan is appealing to the Strasbourg court on the grounds of breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, including right to life, right to liberty, and right to a fair trial.
Initially the court of seven judges will be asked to rule on admissibility -- a decision it may reach in a few days. If the case is admitted, no decision is expected before mid-2001.
Even then, either party can appeal and ask for the case to be heard by a grand chamber of 17 judges.
Ocalan, currently imprisoned in Imrali Prison, Bursa, Turkey, has since his arrest given up calls for self rule.
Instead he has urged his supporters to end armed conflict and use democratic means to win Kurdish cultural rights.
Clashes between troops and Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party have also decreased since he ordered rebels to withdraw outside Turkey's borders.
Meanwhile, police arrested about 100 members of Turkey's only legal Kurdish party on Monday during a protest in the eastern town of Van against the death penalty.
The crowd, made up of members of Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party's (HADEP) youth branch, chanted: "No to the death penalty."
Security officials in Van said police intervened when about 250 demonstrators did not heed repeated warnings to disperse.
HADEP faces possible legal closure for allegedly collaborating with Ocalan's guerrillas. Many of its members, including party leader Ahmet Turan Demir, have been sentenced to prison on similar charges.
The party denies the accusations and says it advocates a negotiated solution to the conflict as well as the granting of cultural rights for the country's some 12 million Kurds.
The hearing comes a week after the European Union laid down economic and political changes Turkey must make before membership talks can start in an "Accession Partnership Accord."
Ankara was incensed that the document included a reference to the need for Turkey to "strongly support" U.N. efforts to resolve the Cyprus dispute among the short term aims.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Turkey delays execution of Kurdish rebel leader Ocalan
Council of Europe Portal
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