Ocalan appeals to Europe, Greek ministers resign

The captured rebel Kurdish leader Mr Abdullah Ocalan appealed to the European Court of Human Rights yesterday to intervene before…

The captured rebel Kurdish leader Mr Abdullah Ocalan appealed to the European Court of Human Rights yesterday to intervene before he stands trial in a Turkish court.

Meanwhile, the political fallout from his arrest struck Greece, where the high-profile foreign minister, Mr Theodoros Pangalos, and two of his colleagues were forced to resign. Their position became untenable in an atmosphere of national humiliation, in which they were seen to have co-operated with Greece's traditional enemy, Turkey, in the still obscure operation in which Mr Ocalan was captured in Kenya on Tuesday.

Mr Ocalan's Italian lawyers asked the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to intervene on his behalf with the Turkish authorities. The court will meet on Tuesday to consider the application for an immediate non-binding ruling.

Mr Ocalan's Dutch lawyers have also lodged a more traditional application with the court alleging civil rights violations. The processing of this kind of application could take several years.

He alleges breach of Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to liberty and security, arising out of the circumstances of his capture, and, his lawyers have added, what a court source has described as "pre-emptive" claims of breach of Articles 2, 3 and 6, his rights to life, the right to freedom from torture and the right to a fair trial.

Turkey's record to date is one of willingness to implement the many specific judgments against it by the court although the EU has expressed concern at its unwillingness to change the conduct giving rise to such cases.

In Turkey, the Hurriyet newspaper reported yesterday that Mr Ocalan, leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), will be tried by a state security court on the fortress island where he has been kept since his return to Turkey.

The head of Israel's Mossad secret service issued a rare public statement yesterday denying involvement in his capture.

Also Israel's Shin Beth internal security service concluded that the killing of three Kurdish protesters at the Israeli consulate in Berlin was justified, Israeli television reported.

The report said an internal Shin Beth review had decided the agents were forced to open fire when dozens of Kurdish protestors stormed into the consulate. The principal charge against Mr Ocalan comes under Article 125 of the Turkish penal code, which stipulates capital punishment for the crime of dividing the country with the aim of setting up a separate state. He has also been charged with murder.

Hurriyet quoted an anonymous senior official as saying that Mr Ocalan would be under detention for a period of 10 days and then appear before a judge to be formally arrested.

Meanwhile, the Greek Prime Minister, Mr Costas Simitis, himself the target of attacks for bungling the Ocalan affair, demanded the resignations of his outspoken Foreign Minister, Mr Theodoros Pangalos, Public Order Minister, Mr Philipos Petsalnikos, and Interior Minister, Mr Alekos Papadopoulos. Mr Georgios Papandreou, Greece's European affairs minister, was appointed foreign minister to replace Mr Pangalos.

All three ministers were held responsible for allowing the fugitive to enter Greek soil and be spirited away to diplomatic protection in Kenya.

"The first time he entered Greece without anyone knowing," Mr Pangalos told the Greek daily, Ta Nea. "I will tell you frankly, as the prime minister has said, we did not want Ocalan in Greece."

After asking for the ministers' resignations, Mr Simitis ordered an investigation into who was responsible for illegally bringing Mr Ocalan into Greece without the government's awareness.

The government persistently denied for almost two weeks that Mr Ocalan had ever set foot in the country.

The man who claims he whisked Mr Ocalan into the country and harboured him told Greek media he set up the fugitive Kurd in a private home in the coastal town of Rafina near Athens on January 29th and then contacted the government for help.

The retired Greek admiral Mr Andonis Naxakis, who comes from a group of hard-line Greek supporters of the Kurdish campaign for self-rule in Turkey, told newspapers that Greek secret service agents then came to the house and picked up Mr Ocalan. They put him on an aircraft and flew all over Europe in a desperate attempt to find him shelter.

He was denied landing at Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Minsk in Belarus, before coming a second time to Greece where the aircraft was refuelled on Corfu.

Mr Ocalan was then flown to Kenya where he stayed in the Greek embassy in Nairobi for 12 days while Greece apparently tried to get him to another African country.

Turkey wasted no time in driving home its criticism of Greece for harbouring a man it views as a terrorist and mass murderer. The Foreign Minister, Mr Ismail Cem, said Mr Pangalos's resignation was "a good thing" for Greece.

The Kenyan leading government minister Mr Simeon Nyachae resigned yesterday after the President, Mr Daniel arap Moi, removed him from the finance ministry in a reshuffle which also saw heads roll in the wake of the abduction of Mr Ocalan.

Turkish troops backed by air power have pushed more than 15 km into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish guerrillas loyal to Mr Ocalan, security officials said yesterday. In Dublin a demonstration by Kurdish sympathisers was held outside the Turkish embassy in Ballsbridge.

--(Additional reporting Reuters, AFP)

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times