Ocalan: `This is a sentence on the Kurdish people'

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The Independent Online
THE HEAD of the self- proclaimed Kurdistan parliament in exile condemned the death sentence on Abdullah Ocalan as one against all Kurds.

Yasar Kaya, president of the Brussels-based group, said both sides in the conflict would suffer because of the verdict. "This decision on the person of Mr Ocalan is a death sentence for the Kurdish people," he said. "Those who have transformed Kurdistan into a blood bath for hundreds of years now continue their massacre in one fashion or another. By this decision the illegitimate Turkish court plays with fire."

About 400 Kurdish protesters gathered outside the United States embassy in London. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said the demonstration had been peaceful.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The verdict is a matter for the Turkish authorities. Our understanding is that where the death sentence is passed, then appeal is automatic. The Government's position on the death sentence is well-known and we and the EU will continue to urge that all death sentences, including those passed in this instance, are commuted to life imprisonment."

European leaders warned Turkey that carrying out the death sentence could jeopardise its already shaky prospects of joining the European Union. Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, led a chorus of appeals from European capitals, urging Turkey not to execute Ocalan. Germany is host to Europe's largest Kurdish community. Some 500,000 Kurds live with up to 2 million Turks. Tensions in Kurdistan have spilt into German streets in the past, culminating in a series of bomb attacks in the early Nineties.

But yesterday Berlin was quiet. About 300 Kurds milled aimlessly around the Kurdish centre, and a smaller group marched to a nearby building.

German intelligence intercepted a message from Mr Ocalan's Kurdish Workers' Party, instructing all members to remain calm. There was a demonstration by about 100 Kurds at the British embassy in Bonn. Fewer than 100 people marched to the United States consulate in Hamburg, and demonstrations were held in Dortmund and Dusseldorf.