Turkey decides Kurd must die for treason

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The Independent Online
TO MOST Turks he is a terrorist and murderer. To many of the Kurds whose cause he once fought for he is a traitor. Few were moved in Turkey yesterday when Semdin Sakik, former deputy commander of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) was sentenced to death for treason.

"Nobody here cares about Sakik," said Hassan Demir, a Kurdish activist living in the Kurdish heartland of south-east Turkey. "With Ocalan it would be a different story."

The decision to execute Sakik bodes ill for Abdullah Ocalan, the captured PKK leader whose trial is due to start on 31 May. European governments have expressed concern at the possibility that Mr Ocalan may face the death penalty and have urged Turkey to give the rebel a fair trial.

Under Turkish law, death penalties have to be approved by parliament. "A lot of us think that if Sakik agrees to testify against Ocalan, parliament will vote to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. If not, they'll hang together," said Mr Demir. Many here believe that Sakik has already sold out.

The guerrilla is blamed for many of the worst atrocities in the PKK's 14-year campaign of violence and terror to win Kurdish autonomy. Known as "Fingerless Zeki", he was the PKK's senior field commander until he fell out with Mr Ocalan. But many think Sakik has been collaborating with Turkish security forces since he was captured last year.

"It was Sakik who told them they'd be able to push Ocalan out of Syria," claims Mr Demir. Mr Ocalan was based in Damascus until the Syrian government expelled him last year under threat of Turkish military action.