Ocalan, once scourge of the Turks, begs court for his life

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ABDULLAH OCALAN, the militant leader who orchestrated 14 years of armed Kurdish rebellion that once threatened to tear Turkey apart, turned craven yesterday, begging for his life before a Turkish court.

"I promise to live for peace and brotherhood and I want to work in the service of the state," said a subdued Mr Ocalan, a statement broadcast live across Turkey from his glass-caged, bullet-proof dock. "I think I ought to live for peace."

Mr Ocalan, held responsible for the deaths of 30,000 in the bitter fighting, faces the death penalty, accused of trying to break up the Turkish state. His Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) had been encouraged into a campaign of violence and terror to win Kurdish autonomy in south-east Turkey.

As the 139-page indictment against him was read out yesterday, there were signs Mr Ocalan may already have done service for the Turkish state in his interrogation. Turkey is using the publicity from his capture in Kenya and the trial to hit back at opponents in Europe.

The semi-official Anatolia News Agency claims Mr Ocalan told interrogators that Britain, Germany, Italy and Greece "used him" against Turkey.

The trial was long expected to be an instrument for Turkey to attack its arch-rival Greece, and the indictment classes Greece with Syria and Lebanon as a "terrorist country". After questioning of Mr Ocalan began in February, Turkish papers said he confessed that Greece armed the PKK.

Mr Ocalan's submissive statement to the court will stick in the throats of Kurdish supporters, and it dashes hopes he would go down fighting.

But his apparent cowardice may spur claims from his lawyer, Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu, that Mr Ocalan was drugged into submission. Mr Okcuoglu is boycotting the trial, saying state pressure is unfair.

Mr Ocalan did look in good health yesterday, but Turkish authorities may have learntfrom the international furore when he was humiliatingly paraded in front of Turkish flags after his capture, handcuffed and blindfolded.

Mr Ocalan was dressed smartly in an elegant jacket. But he quickly shed what dignity the state had allowed him with his statement. "I share the pain of those families of martyrs," he claimed in court, as relatives of Turkish soldiers killed by the PKK looked on in muttering disbelief.

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