Kidnapped Kurdish Leader on Trial in Turkey


The trial of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the main Kurdish organization in Turkey, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), is scheduled to begin at the start of June. It is expected to last about a month and a half.

Diyarbakir, in Kurdish region of Turkey. After gov’t kidnapped Ocalan in February, protesters called for a three-day shutdown of commerce


Ocalan was kidnapped in Kenya in February by Turkish commandos assisted by U.S. undercover agents. Shortly after his capture, Turkish officials exhibited him to the press blindfolded and apparently drugged. Ever since, except for a few tightly supervised interviews with his lawyers, he has been held incommunicado in solitary confinement on an island off Istanbul.

Ocalan’s lawyers have related statements by the PKK revealing that the psychological pressures he is under have brought him to the verge of collapse.

Only 20 journalists will be allowed into the trial, 12 Turks and 8 foreigners. Observers from international organizations, including human rights organizations, will not be admitted. The trial will be a marathon affair, with daily sessions. It is clear what can be expected.

On May 20, a Turkish court sentenced Ocalan’s former lieutenant, Semdin Sakik, and his brother, Arif, to death. Sakik was convicted of high treason, murder, and threatening the security and unity of the state. The same charges are being lodged against Ocalan.

Sakik broke with the PKK and Ocalan at the end of 1996. He sought refuge with Masud Barzani’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), a client of the Turkish government. While in the custody of the DPK, he was captured by Turkish commandos.

Willingly or unwillingly, Sakik collaborated with the Turkish authorities, making a number of “revelations” that were played up by the Turkish press. But this apparent cooperation did not win him any clemency.

Since 1984, death sentences have to be confirmed by parliament. After the recent elections, the Turkish parliament is even more dominated by the extreme right. The second largest party is now the National Action Party (MHP), a fascist-like extreme chauvinist, anti-Kurdish organization. It now holds 129 seats, 22 of which are occupied by notorious members of the Gray Wolves, a chauvinist paramilitary organization.

Moreover, the MHP is in alliance with the DSP of the premier Bulent Ecevit, sometimes regarded in Europe as a Social Democrat. This “Nationalist Bloc” totals 265 deputies, 48 percent of the assembly.

At the same time as it is obviously preparing a show trial and death sentence against Ocalan, the Turkish army has been pressing a brutal campaign against the Kurdish resistance. The pro-Kurdish on-line dailyÖzgur Politika reported in its May 22 issue that the Turkish army has been using poison gas against the guerrillas led by the PKK. As a source it quoted a statement by a Turkish colonel (albay), who spoke incognito:

“Turkish pharmaceutical factories have been producing poison gas and the Turkish armed forces have been using it at various times against the Kurdish people and are continuing to do so. … German poison gas is slaughtering the Kurdish people.”

The colonel claimed that 23 Kurdish people had died from a poison gas attack in Bingol on Sept. 24, 1998, among other cases.

In its May 22 issue, the Italian daily Il Manifesto reported: “Legal experts have confirmed … the use of chemical weapons, which [recently] have killed at least 20 members of the PKK. Their bodies were subsequently disfigured to make them unrecognizable.”

The colonel cited in Özgur Politika called on the European Union to establish a committee to look into the production of poison gas for the Turkish forces by joint Turkish-Swiss and Turkish-German companies.

Among others, he accused the following companies in Istanbul: Henkel Kimya Sanayi (Turkish-German), the Hochst Ilaç Fabrikasi (Turkish-German), and Roche Ilaç Sanayi (Turkish-Swiss).

Ocalan, according to his lawyers, wants to use his court appearances to launch a plea for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. But the increasingly right-wing Turkish government, supported militarily and financially by the big capitalist countries, is clearly continuing its campaign to crush the Kurdish people. It has already driven 3 million of them from their homes.

Ironically, NATO bombers are now using the same bases in Turkey to fly missions allegedly in defense of the Kosovars that are being used by the Turkish army for its genocidal campaign against the Kurds.

The Turkish authorities obviously want to stage a show trial to defame Ocalan and the Kurdish movement. But international attention and protests can upset these plans. It is a special responsibility of Americans, whose government delivered the Kurdish leader into the hands of a genocidal regime, to protest against the judicial farce and media circus the Turkish government is planning.

To find out what you can do, contact the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) at <> or call (202) 483-6444.

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