Kurdistan Workers Party leader arrested

Issue 

Kurdistan Workers Party leader arrested

Abdullah Ocalan, the general secretary of the left-wing pro-independence Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was seized by Italian police as he left a plane at Rome airport on November 12.

Ocalan had been forced to flee from Syria after the Turkish government pressured the Syrian government to deny PKK fighters sanctuary on its territory. Turkey had threatened war against Syria.

Ocalan had unsuccessfully sought political asylum in Moscow before he flew to Rome.

The PKK has been fighting for self-determination for the Kurdish people since 1984. About 30 million Kurds live in an area split between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and the former Soviet Union.

During that time more than 2000 villages have been razed by the Turkish military and thousands of civilians killed. The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey guilty on charges of burning villages in the south-east.

Washington supports the Ankara regime's brutal war against the Kurds in south-east Turkey, including its regular massive invasions or northern Iraq. The latest such invasion began in early November, when 25,000 troops backed by fighter aircraft and helicopters crossed the border.

Turkey immediately demanded Ocalan's extradition. Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz described the arrest as a victory for the Turkish government.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said on November 13 that the Clinton administration "welcomes the detention, which is an important step forward in the global fight against terrorism".

Ocalan is on trial in absentia in Turkey, charged with leading a "terrorist organisation" and threatening Turkey's "territorial integrity". The charges carry the death penalty.

Ocalan is being held in a Rome prison. He intends to ask for political asylum in Italy. Left-wing members of the Italian parliament said they would support Ocalan's application.

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