Turkey warned to spare Ocalan or lose EU entry

A TURKISH appeals court yesterday upheld the death sentence against Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader, prompting the most explicit warning yet from the EU that Turkey's application for membership will be jeopardised if Ocalan is hanged.

"Hang the infidel!" shouted one demonstrator outside the appeals court yesterday, waving a picture of Ocalan with his mouth dripping with blood. Ocalan was sentenced to hang in June for leading a 15-year Kurdish rebellion. Turkish authorities blamed Ocalan for the deaths of all 30,000 people killed in the fighting.

Relatives of Turkish soldiers killed by the Kurdish rebels stormed a human rights office and beat a senior activist after the court's decision. Husnu Ondul, the head of the Human Rights Association, which is often accused of being sympathetic to Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), told reporters that around 40 people burst into his office in Ankara, ripping up telephone lines and destroying furniture.

Finland, which holds the EU presidency, demanded yesterday that Ocalan not be executed. "If the sentence is carried out, it would not fit in with the EU's policy on the death penalty," said the Finnish Foreign Minister, Tarja Halonen.

"This is a disappointment," said a spokesman for Gunter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, who made the most explicit link so far between Ocalan's fate and Turkey's EU candidacy. "We would like to remind Turkey like other candidate countries that we expect them to withdraw the death penalty if they are to become member states." No EU member has the death penalty.

Turkey is confident of being named as an EU candidate at next month's Helsinki summit. But Ankara can "forget the Helsinki summit if Ocalan is executed," Germany's ambassador to Turkey, Joachim Vergau, was reported as saying this week.

Since June, when Turkey sentenced Ocalan to hang, the country has been swamped with European goodwill after two earthquakes killed more than 17,000 of its people. Differences with Greece have been patched up, and there are even signs of movement over Cyprus.

The Turkish parliament must now decide whether to execute the rebel leader. Hanging him will mean the end of Turkey's European aspirations - but sparing him will provoke outrage in a Turkish public baying for Ocalan's blood.

For the time being, though, Turkey has a breathing space - Ocalan's lawyers are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, which will take at least 18 months to reach a decision.

The failure of Ocalan's appeal yesterday could spell furtherviolence by the Kurdish separatists. At Ocalan's bidding, the PKK has formally renounced violence and called on Turkey to make peace. But the Turkish authorities have dismissed the peace bid as a tactical bluff, and vowed to eradicate the rebels. They have made no concessions. The Kurds are still not recognised as a minority; their language is still banned.

PKK members have surrendered as a sign of goodwill - only to be jailed and prosecuted. Now there are rumours that some PKK splinter groups want to return to violence. An opportunity for peace may be slipping away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future