Ocalan tells Turks of Greek arms and training for PKK, say reports

 

The imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader, Mr Abdullah Ocalan, has given interrogators a detailed account of Greek aid to his rebel group, a Turkish newspaper reported yesterday.

Mr Ocalan, who was captured in Kenya a week ago and taken to a Turkish prison island, is expected to stand trial for waging a 15-year war of insurrection that has claimed around 37,000 lives. He could face the death penalty.

The national daily newspaper Hurriyet said Mr Ocalan had acknowledged that Greece provided his guerrilla army with weapons and training, as well as a Greek Cypriot passport he used in his travels.

"Greece has for years supported the PKK movement. They even gave us arms and rockets. Greek officers gave guerrilla training and explosives training to our militants" at a camp in Lavrion, Greece, the newspaper quoted Mr Ocalan as telling interrogators.

The newspaper said the interrogation sessions were being videotaped, but did not say how it had obtained the rebel leader's statements.

The newspaper said Mr Ocalan had also told investigators of Greek assistance during five months of wandering as he attempted to find a country that would give him asylum. Just prior to being seized by Turkish commandos, he had been sheltering at the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi.

Three Greek ministers resigned in the ensuing row.

Western intelligence agencies tracked Mr Ocalan throughout his hunt for asylum, including during a previously unreported stay in Iran, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday.

In Ankara, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said yesterday that Greek support for Kurdish rebels fighting an armed campaign in Turkey meant Greece should be classed a state that sponsors terrorism.

Turkey has launched a drive in Europe to make Greece account for harbouring Mr Ocalan.

"Greece should be added to the list of countries that support terrorism and harbour terrorists. A country like that can only be described as an outlaw state," the Anatolian news agency quoted Mr Demirel as saying.

Mr Demirel also warned Athens that Turkey could take unspecified measures if Greece continued what he called its illegal support for Mr Ocalan's rebels.

"We reserve the right given to us by international law to take the necessary precautions if Greece chooses to continue its illegal behaviour," he said.

Responding to the criticism, Athens accused Turkey of "trying to plot against Greece with imprecise statements and tall tales." The Greek government spokesman, Mr Dimitris Reppas, said Turkey had no right to attack its attitude to the Kurds given its own "illegal occupation of Cyprus". Mr Reppas also accused Turkey of "systematic legal and human rights violations".

In Luxembourg, the EU said yesterday it expected Turkey to give Mr Ocalan a fair trial and to let international observers attend. The statement by EU foreign ministers seemed likely to inflame further relations with Turkey, which has warned the 15-nation bloc not to try to exert pressure on it.

The ministers also said that while they accepted Turkey's territorial integrity, they expected it to resolve its problems by political means with full respect for human rights.

In the wake of Mr Ocalan's arrest, Turkish forces launched an offensive against his rebels in the south-east of the country.

Turkey insists Mr Ocalan will receive a fair trial but this has not convinced campaigners who condemn its human rights record.

"The European Union takes note of the assurances of the Turkish government that Abdullah Ocalan will have a fair trial," the foreign ministers said in their statement.

"It expects this to mean fair and correct treatment and an open trial according to the rule of law before an independent court, with access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial."

Mr Ocalan will be put into a bullet-proof glass cage for his trial, expected to open in April, NTV television reported yesterday.

Special equipment was sent by boat yesterday to the prison island of Imrali, in the sea of Marmara, to prepare for the trial, the news television channel said. For security reasons, Mr Ocalan will be the first prisoner tried in Turkey in such a cage, which has been used elsewhere for trials of Mafia leaders and terrorists. Turkish media have said the Ocalan trial would open around April 10th, and would last into May.

Questioning by three magistrates of the state security court started on Sunday and is to continue until today.