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Ocalan Denies Ordering 1993 Attack

June 1, 1999

IMRALI ISLAND, Turkey (AP) _ On trial for his life, Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan rejected responsibility today for one of the deadliest attacks blamed on his guerrillas, a 1993 slaughter that led to a sharp escalation of the 15-year war.

Turkey’s state-run TRT television quoted Ocalan as telling the court on the second day of his treason trial that he did not order the attack, which killed 33 unarmed soldiers in the southeastern province of Bingol.

The killings ended a cease-fire declared by his Kurdistan Workers’ Party and prompted the military to intensify its fight to eradicate the rebels in southeast Turkey.

As part of the offensive, human rights groups say, the military launched a scorched earth campaign, burning thousands of villages suspected of supporting the rebels.

Ocalan, who is accused of ordering the killing in a 139-page indictment encompassing his life as a rebel leader, said the assault was carried out by renegade guerrillas acting independently, TRT said.

``It is not possible to condone the death of these soldiers,″ he was quoted as saying.

Ocalan also denied accusations that he had given orders for bombings at some of Turkey’s most popular tourist sites in the early 1990s, TRT said. The bombings killed and injured several foreigners.

Ocalan said his group had not killed Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, but that rebels that had broken away from his group may have had a hand in the 1986 assassination.

``There have been attempts to put the blame for several murders in Europe, including the murder of Olof Palme, on me,″ the Turkish news agency Anatolia quoted Ocalan as saying.

``The senior members of the organization who have said that orders for those actions were given by me, are those who are opposed to me.″

Palme, whose government had declared Ocalan’s group a terrorist organization, was gunned down on a Stockholm street.

Asked about alleged foreign help, the rebel chief said his group received training in camps in Greece, Yugoslavia and Iran, Anatolia said.

He said Greece, Turkey’s traditional rival, also provided his fighters with weapons.

Ocalan surprised the Turkish court at the opening of his trial Monday by ordering his fighters to end their struggle and threatening massive bloodshed if he is hanged.

Turkish newspapers expressed outrage today at Ocalan’s mix of begging and bargaining.

``It’s too late,″ declared a headline in the daily Zaman newspaper. ``Traitor and coward,″ said the daily Aksam; ``Apology and threat!″ said the daily Turkiye.

``The armed clashes should immediately cease and arms should be immediately laid down,″ Ocalan said Monday through a microphone in a bulletproof and bombproof cage on the island of Imrali, where he is the only prisoner.

It was Ocalan’s first direct call for an end to the guerrilla campaign.

Turkey has rejected Ocalan’s previous calls for a cease-fire and regards any hints of Kurdish national identity as a direct threat to the republic.

There is overwhelming support in Turkey for executing Ocalan, commonly referred to as a ``bloody terrorist″ and ``baby-killer.″

Kurds marked the opening of the trial with demonstrations in Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and Denmark. There were no reports of violence.

Ocalan said he wanted the guerrilla group to ``give up its stance against the state and prepare for the legalization process.″

He said that if he were allowed to contact his fighters, he could talk them into laying down their weapons within three months and end the rebellion that has killed 37,000 people, the majority of them Kurds.

``Those who know the history, political and economic situation of the two people, will know that breaking up cannot happen,″ Ocalan said in a statement published by several newspapers today.

Ocalan’s offer to transform his group into a political organization comes as his guerrilla fighters have faced serious setbacks on the battlefield and appears designed to save his life and what is left of his guerrilla group.

Some 250,000 Turkish soldiers and police backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes have pushed the rebels deep into the mountains and northern Iraq, where they carry out only occasional attacks.

In Brussels, Belgium, a spokeswoman for the group said it was premature to comment on Ocalan’s statements.

Also today, two lawyers for Ocalan confirmed that they resigned from the case. The resignations were in protest of the court’s refusal to adjourn the trial pending a government-backed reform that would do away with a military judge’s seat on the three-member panel.

Update hourly