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Turkey Rejects Ocalan Lawyers’ Bid

March 24, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ A state security court in Turkey ruled today that Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan must stand trial on a prison island, rejecting his lawyers’ bid to have him moved.

The court said it would ask the Justice Ministry to prepare trial facilities on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara, where Ocalan has been held as the sole inmate since his Feb. 15 capture in Kenya by Turkish forces.

The three-judge panel said a trial date would be set after prosecutors prepare a new indictment based on Ocalan’s confessions after his capture. His lawyers, who were representing Ocalan in court for the first time, wanted their client transferred to Ankara.

The ruling came in one of several proceedings against Ocalan. The trials are expected to be consolidated at some point.

The stormy hearing was interrupted several times when relatives of soldiers and police killed in the conflict shouted obscenities at Ocalan’s lawyers. Some relatives draped themselves in red Turkish flags; others carried pictures of their dead loved ones.

Defense attorney Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu argued that Ocalan should be transferred to a mainland prison because of the difficulty of reaching the island. Okcuoglu also complained that defense lawyers are not allowed to confer in private with Ocalan at the island prison.

The Justice Ministry argued that Ocalan’s life would be in danger if he were transferred.

The judges also ruled that hundreds of relatives of people killed in the Kurdish war for autonomy can take part in the case as plaintiffs.

Some 37,000 people have been killed since Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party launched its battle for autonomy in southeastern Turkey in 1984. Most of the victims are Kurds.

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