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World - Europe

Turkish prime minister offers amnesty to Kurdish rebels

February 20, 1999
Web posted at: 3:10 p.m. EST (2010 GMT)

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called on thousands of Kurdish rebels to surrender Saturday, promising they would be treated fairly under a proposed amnesty in the wake of the capture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

"Youths hiding in mountains and in caves, come and find refuge with the justice system," Ecevit said. "The state will provide every kind of security measure for you. Rescue yourselves from the hands of those who exploited and threw you into the fire. You cannot defeat the state."

Ecevit also promised job training for guerrillas who gave themselves up.

The Turkish government captured the fugitive Ocalan in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday and brought him back to Turkey.

Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), is being held on a prison island to await trial on terrorism charges for his part in a 15-year battle for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

"He is the head of an organization which has caused great grief to our nation for 15 years," Ecevit said.

Wave of protests

Ocalan's arrest sparked a wave of protests by Kurds across Europe, who hurled firebombs and occupying embassies in several European cities.

The violence continued into the weekend. Bombs exploded and assailants smashed store windows in Istanbul Friday night, according to the Anatolian news agency. Windows were also broken at the local headquarters of Ecevit's Democratic Left Party.

Demonstrators in Italy on Saturday also clashed with police over Ocalan's arrest, although police were able to restore order with no injuries reported.

Other protests took place in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Nearly 10,000 protesters marched on the Israeli Embassy in Bonn, Germany Saturday, protesting the killing of three Kurdish demonstrators who stormed the consulate this week after Ocalan's arrest.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Ocalan lawyer says fair trial unlikely in Turkey
February 19, 1999
Turkey stifles Kurdish protests, begins Ocalan interrogation
February 18, 1999
Reports: Ocalan snatched by Turkish commandos
February 17, 1999
Turks jubilant over Ocalan's capture
February 16, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Kurdistan Workers Party Information
The Republic of Turkey
President of the Turkish Republic
The Center for Kurdish Political Studies
Terrorist acts by the PKK
Turkish Press Review: Daily News
Kurdish Information Network
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