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World - Europe

Lawyers granted permission to meet with Ocalan

The Kurdish issue

Thousands in Rome protest Kurdish leader's arrest

February 24, 1999
Web posted at: 3:43 p.m. EST (2043 GMT)

In this story:

Turkish media publishes 'confessions'

Calls for Europe's help


ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- An attorney for jailed Kurdish activist Abdullah Ocalan said Wednesday that two of his lawyers had been granted permission to travel to the remote prison island where the Kurdish leader is being held.

"We received the decision," said attorney Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu. "We shall travel tomorrow (Thursday)."

Turkish authorities had previously barred Ocalan's attorneys from meeting with him, and even prevented them from attending the hearing Tuesday at which he was formally charged with treason for leading a 15-year battle for Kurdish autonomy.

Kurds and their supporters from across Europe poured into Rome on Wednesday in a show of support for Ocalan, who was captured in Kenya last week by Turkish special forces.

Police said between 30,000 and 35,000 people took part in the Rome demonstration, many carrying the red flags of Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and posters bearing his portrait.

Thousands of Kurds and their supporters march through the streets of Rome  

At the demonstration, Kurdish leaders appealed to Pope John Paul II to save Ocalan from a possible death sentence.

Turkish media publishes 'confessions'

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel continued to call for Kurdish rebels to come down from their mountain hideouts and surrender, offering them the promise of partial amnesty.

"Turkey has reached a turning point," Demirel said. "We must bring our children down from the mountains, for they are our children, misled into terrorism, into committing murders."

But Turkey's legislature, which would have to approve any amnesty deal, won't be in session again until after national elections in April.

Turkey's media has published a steady stream of alleged confessions made by Ocalan under questioning, without revealing how they obtained the information.

"I see now that we were chasing empty dreams," the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted Ocalan as saying. "We were walking along a dead-end road."

The Sabah newspaper reported that Ocalan admitted his rebel army got most of its money from drug-running.

Hurriyet already has reported that Ocalan claimed Greece was supplying the PKK with arms, prompting Demirel to condemn the Greek government.

"I say they are not behaving like a civilized country," he said. "I say this is hostility."

Ocalan hid out at the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, for two weeks before his capture.

Calls for Europe's help

Ocalan's arrest on February 15 sparked waves of protest across Europe, including the occupations of some Greek embassies and consulates.

Three Kurds were shot to death in Berlin when they stormed the Israeli consulate after reports surfaced -- denied by Israel -- that the Israelis had aided in Ocalan's capture.

On Wednesday, thousands of supporters took to Berlin's streets to remember Mehmet Acar, Mustafa Kurt and Sema Alp. Hundreds of riot police stood by as as many as 10,000 people walked by the caskets of the three before they were flown back to Turkey for burial.

Protesters at the march demanded that Europe guard Ocalan's safety.

"We demand that Europe send a delegation to ensure that Ocalan's security is guaranteed" said Kurdish community spokeswoman Zara Zeynep.

The widow of French President Francois Mitterrand also has asked the leaders of the 15 European Union countries to check on the prison conditions in which Ocalan is being held.

Turkey has promised that Ocalan's trial will be a fair one. No date for the trial has been set.

Correspondents Gayle Young, Stephanie Halasz and Reuters contributed to this report.

A Terrorist's Bitter End
TIME February 22, 1999
Turkish leader rules out Kurdish autonomy
February 21, 1999
Turkish prime minister offers amnesty to Kurdish rebels
February 20, 1999
Ocalan lawyer says fair trial unlikely in Turkey
February 19, 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
Turkish Press Review: Daily News
Kurdish Information Network
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