Kurd Protests: Angry Ocalan humiliated by Turkey

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The Independent Online
AS THOUSANDS of Turkish troops poured into neighbouring Iraq to hunt Kurdish rebels yesterday, Turkish television showed more humiliating video footage of the captured Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Images released by the Turkish general staff showed the chief of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in a hood, being ledto a high-security island prison in the Sea of Marmara after all other prisoners were removed. He was between two Turkish national flags, an image designed to delight Turks as much as it humiliates the Kurds.

In Ankara, the prime minister, Mr Bulent Ecevit, said the trial of Mr Ocalan would begin soon. The justice ministry said it would be held on the island, most likely to avoid any chance of his PKK supporters attempting a jailbreak.

His interrogation is believed to have begun, with growing world pressure on Turkey to avoid the torture routinely used by the military. Sources say Mr Ocalan could be tried by a state security court, which also includes military judges.

The prospect of a military involvement in Mr Ocalan's trial will deepen international concern over whether the PKK leader can expect a fair hearing. His Dutch lawyer was refused entry to Turkey and the European human rights court has questioned the credentials of Turkish security courts.

Mr Ecevit suggested yesterday that the PKK fighters might now like to surrender. "The capture of the chief terrorist has created an opportunity for the deceived young people of the mountains," hesaid. "If many young people surrender, our people and the parliament will embrace them".

Turkey's systematic mistreatment of PKK activists means that few are likely to take up the offer.

But Turkish police were reported to be rounding up hundreds of Kurdish activists in the country, after violent protests over the Mr Ocalan's capture.

Police detained Ocalan supporters in Istanbul after vehicles were torched in hit-and- run attacks. A petrol bomb was hurled under a bus belonging to Mr Ecevit's Democratic Left Party but failed to detonate. Human rights activists said 700 Kurds had been held in Istanbul and south-eastern cities.

The Turkish government holds Mr Ocalan responsible for the deaths of more than 37,000 people in the 15-year war in the south-east between the army and the PKK he founded.

His Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq are the targets of the 4,000 Turkish troops, backed by air support, who advanced over the border town of Cukurca into the mountainous Kurdish region, which is outside Baghdad's control.

Turkish leaders insisted that the operation was planned before Mr Ocalan's capture in Kenya.

Turkey has made frequent incursions into Iraq to attack the PKK. The semi-official Anatolia News Agency reported that yesterday's operation was assisted by guerrillas of Massoud Barzani's Iraq-based Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The Iraqi Kurds depend on Turkish goodwill for their lucrative oil-smuggling business. Turkey is also the base for US and British aircraft patrolling the northern "no fly zone", which protects Iraqi Kurds from the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.

n Kenya fired its top immigration official, Frank Kwinga, yesterday, after he said that Kenya had played an active role in throwing Mr Ocalan out of the country.

Mr Kwinga said that Kenyan officials had physically put Mr Ocalan on a flight out of Kenya on Monday. Hours later he landed in Turkey.

The government had said that Greek officials put Mr Ocalan on the plane and that Kenya would not have approved his transfer to Turkey.