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June 23, 1999


The trial of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Ocalan on charges of treason against the Turkish state, which began on May 31 and is set to resume today on the prison island of Imrali after a brief recess, attracted the attention of European media along with a handful of observers from other regions. Some offered views on the proceedings themselves, and particularly Mr. Ocalan's "extraordinary" opening day testimony in which he asked that his life be spared so that be may "serve the Turkish state." Opinion in Turkey and elsewhere ranged from skepticism to puzzlement and even slight optimism over his offer to "bring down my men from the mountains" if the government agrees to negotiate "a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem." Meanwhile, papers in leading EU countries argued that the stakes are high for Turkey in this trial and that much--including Turkey's hoped-for membership in the EU--is riding on its outcome. Many pointedly observed that the Ocalan hearing is in fact "a litmus test" for the Turkish system of justice and democracy, and worried that the country will opt for short-sighted "revenge instead of the rule of law." These same writers urged Turkey to avoid "making a grim spectacle of itself" by hanging the PKK leader, a result which would, they judged, "do little for the cause of peace in Turkey." Arguing that "Ankara has to make a choice," Ankara's intellectual Radikal similarly asserted, "We are at a point where we have to decide what we want, to punish Ocalan or to end terror in Turkey." Highlights follow:

OCALAN'S 'OUTSTRETCHED HAND' AND THE VERDICT: Many pundits dismissed the Kurdish leader's call for clemency as a self-serving ploy to avoid a death sentence. Others, by contrast, urged the Turkish government to consider seriously the offer, and expressed hope that this "olive branch" might offer a way to "close the chapter" on the 15-year-old conflict between Ankara and the Kurdish insurgents. In any case, most predicted that his plea will not preclude Turkey's State Security Court from imposing the death sentence. Opinion differed, however, on whether it would be wise for Turkey execute Mr. Ocalan. With the exception of a few Ankara dailies, all analysts argued against the PKK leader's execution--not out of sympathy for Mr. Ocalan who was labeled a "ruthless brute," but rather out of concern that his death would "enrage many Kurds, even those not enamored of the PKK" and make prospects for reconciliation between Turkey and its Kurdish population more remote.

'WHAT'S AT STAKE' FOR TURKEY: A wide spectrum of papers judged that the outcome of the trial may prove pivotal for Turkey on two related fronts: its relations with Europe and with its Kurdish population. European and Canadian writers saw the trial as "a reminder of Turkey's human rights violations" against the Kurds, and held that Turkey's conduct of the Ocalan trial makes EU membership "more distant." Some judged Turkey to be at a "crossroads," as did a Copenhagen daily, which stressed, "Now is the time for Turkey to show the skeptics that [it] is capable of administering Ocalan's trial according to the same rules of international law...practiced by the democratic West [it] so badly wants to join." While a few Turkish writers advised "ignoring" the barbs from "Western circles" about the country's human rights record, others were circumspect--viewing the trial as "a turning point" and contending that "now is the fulfill our obligations as a democracy" and "plan for peace...between Turks and Kurds."

This survey is based on 44 reports from 15 countries, May 31 - June 23.

EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr


To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below


TURKEY: "Ocalan Places Hope In The U.S."

Editor-in-chief Yalcin Dogan argued in mass-appeal Milliyet (6/4): "Despite the fact that it was the United States that had handed over Ocalan to Turkey, Ocalan never said anything against the United States. He is trying to politicize his trial, and his hopes are bound to the United States.... It is no secret the United States has influence over Turkey. And the American press regards the Ocalan trial as an historic opportunity to resolve the Kurdish issue. Everybody knows that these words are being whispered to the American press by the State Department."

"U.S. Goal: A Kurdistan Sans PKK"

Tuncay Ozkan front-paged this commentary in intellectual Radikal (6/3): "The United States wants a Kurdish state, and Ocalan was handed over to Turkey as part of a 'Kurdistan without the PKK' plan."

"What Is Apo Doing?"

Sahin Alpay commented in mass-appeal Milliyet (6/3): "Ocalan says he is ready to serve the Turkish state. Turkey does not need the help of a brutal murderer like Ocalan to establish peace and democratization. As we begin to see the true face of this murderer, we should decide not to hang him. Because this will make him a phony hero.... This, however, does not change the fact that we have to solve the Kurdish issue, improve our democracy, bring development to the southeast and fully establish a Turkish-Kurdish friendship."

"A Striking Point In The Trial"

Mumtaz Soysal commented in mass-appeal Hurriyet (6/2): "The most interesting aspect of Ocalan's testimony is the PKK foreign connection.... What he said about the Washington Agreement (September 17, 1998) was the most interesting part of his defense. He urged Turkey to evaluate the real motives behind the Washington Agreement on northern Iraq.... It was a known fact that the United States had other motives, but the striking point is that it is being professed by the chief player for the first time.... Can we possibly interpret his blunt statements regarding northern Iraq, and his references to foreign plots to exploit Kurds, as a move to gain sympathy?"

"There Are Developments In Northern Iraq"

Yalcin Dogan observed in mass-appeal Milliyet (6/2): "Apparently Ocalan is aware of the developments in northern Iraq, because what he said in court coincides with what is now happening in northern Iraq.... The three groups in northern Iraq [the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)] all have something in common: Northern Iraq is the most suitable place for an independent state.... Under current circumstances, it seems that chances for a new political situation are rapidly increasing.... Is[ there] preparation for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq?"

"We Can Break The Southeast Chain"

Mehmet Ali Birand stressed in mass-appeal Posta (6/2): "We should not choose the easy way out by just saying, 'Ocalan gets punished, and that's it.' If we do that, there will be a higher price to pay in the future.... The best possible solution is one that allows us to benefit from the strength that comes from our economic richness, as well as our democracy.

"As the military has even professed, we have reached the final point in terms of armed struggles. Now it's time to use other opportunities in a rational way."

"Western Criticism"

Sebahattin Onkibar wrote a front-page editorial in conservative, religious Turkiye (6/1): "What Ocalan said at the beginning of his trial, in which he pronounced regret, is a tactical game to get rid of a death penalty ruling.... Although the trial is something we should be proud of because of its transparency and fairness, we should still expect criticism from Western circles. But whatever we do will not be satisfactory for Westerners.... Turkey should continue its judiciary procedures, which are based on democratic and republic principles, and ignore criticisms.... If Ocalan is given a life sentence instead of the death penalty, then Turkey might face another serious Sevres-like problem [referring to the attempts to carve up Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire]."

"Ocalan And Justice"

Oktay Eksi front-paged this editorial in mass-appeal Hurriyet (6/1): "When considering Ocalan's terrorist acts in which he was directly involved, it is not difficult to predict the verdict based on the Turkish penal code. Apparently, Ocalan himself understands this, so he professed regret and repentance at the very beginning.... It is annoying that our so-called foreign 'friends' condemn every kind of terrorism, but at the same time do not want to perceive Ocalan as a terrorist figure. Otherwise, we would not see so many embassy representatives of important countries at the Ocalan trial. Justice will be served, and he will be sentenced according to the laws of the Turkish Republic. If he is given the death will undoubtedly be carried out. Under the current situation in Turkey, nobody should expect otherwise."

"A Turning Point"

Hasan Cemal wrote a front-page editorial in mass-appeal Milliyet (6/1): "As the PKK loses its backbone and its leader faces justice, we had better start thinking about the future and start planning for a lasting peace. Our thinking should be based on logic, not emotions. This is the right time to think multi-dimensionally, which will help ensure no fighting between Turks and Kurds, and which will enhance the will to live together in peace and stability.... Now is the time to increase our democratic principles and fulfill our obligations as a democracy, with a democratic rule of law."

"Ankara's Choice"

Intellectual Radikal published this commentary by Avni Ozgurel (6/1): "We are at a point where we will have to decide what we want, to punish Ocalan or to end terror in Turkey.... On the first day of the trial, Ocalan clearly submitted himself to the state. He said, 'Use me, don't kill me!' So Ankara has to make a choice. The death penalty may be reduced to life imprisonment without parole."

BRITAIN: "Turkey On Trial"

The independent weekly Economist offered its assessment of the Ocalan trial (6/5): "It is quite possible that the leader of the [PKK]...will indeed be hanged. If that happens, most Turks will cheer. They would be wiser, however, to set aside the hangman's noose, and think instead about how they can come to terms with those of their Kurdish compatriots still prepared to fight and die for the right to express their Kurdishness. Mr. Ocalan is a ruthless and dogmatic brute.... But killing him judicially would still be a mistake. No European state has recently carried out a death sentence; in so doing, Turkey would make a grim spectacle of itself.

"It would do little for the cause of peace in Turkey...and it would enrage many Kurds, even those not enamored of the PKK.... The trial of Mr. Ocalan is a diversion. Turkey is still a beacon of comparative stability and tolerance at a delicate pivot between Europe and the Middle East. The EU should keep its door open to Turkey's membership--provided the country meets the tests of economic and political freedom that apply to all. But too few Turks understand that political pluralism includes the right of minorities peacefully to demand things that the state is loathe to give them. Too often, Turks question why they should be kind to Kurdish terrorists when the Basque ETA separatists and the [IRA] have been hunted down without much international outcry.... The answer is that Basque and Irish separatists...are entirely free to demand the break-up of states, provided they do so peacefully. Yet Kurds who simply ask for Kurdish-language radio stations or education, let alone independence, are liable to be tortured and jailed. So long as that goes on, Mr. Ocalan's friends will fight on--and Turkey will not be considered a full democracy."

FRANCE: "What's At Stake"

Jacques Amalric opined in left-of-center Liberation (6/1): "Will Turkey give the Kurdish people a new martyr? This is what is really at stake in the Ocalan trial.... The Turkish regime itself is on trial.... Beyond the fate awaiting Ocalan, whatever it may be, Turkey is going to have to choose what it wants to do with its victory over the Kurdish rebellion. Will it stick to the status quo and remain blind and deaf...or will it finally admit that the solution to the Kurdish question lies with a substantial autonomy for the Kurds. The recent Turkish nationalist movement, to the right and the left, is not encouraging. Neither is the United States' silent approval of principles that contradict those defended in the Kosovo crisis. There is only Europe left, with its reticence and its cowardice."

"Turkey And The Death Penalty"

Jean Levallois observed in regional La Presse de la Manche (6/1): "Since 1984, the Turkish Parliament has never implemented the death penalty. But, faced with pressure from the army, this may change with the Ocalan case. The execution of Ocalan would set Turkey further away from Europe, proving its traditional Greek enemies right in their belief that Turkey has a long way to go before it loses its barbaric reflexes."

GERMANY: "Courageous Voices In Turkey"

Dietrich Alexander maintained in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/9): "It is not surprising that the prosecutor has demanded the death penalty for Ocalan.... Another question is much more interesting: Does the Turkish state have the greatness to change the inevitable death penalty for its worst enemy (into a life imprisonment)?... The time seems to be ripe...and a growing number of voices call for a new beginning and reconciliation in relations between Turks and Kurds.... It will not be fatal for the Ecevit government, which sits firm in its saddle, to pardon a terrorist through a vote in parliament. Clemency in the Ocalan case offers the opportunity to end a de-facto civil war. Ankara can only win with such a move."

"A Reminder Of Human Rights Violations"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch front-paged this editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/1): "Ocalan will be sentenced to death.... Since the arrest of the PKK leader, a national euphoria has overtaken the Turks and no Turkish politician can ignore this mood.... This trial, however, also offers the opportunity to remind (us) of Turkey's human rights violations. The methods which the Turkish army and the MIT intelligence service used against Ocalan and his PKK were often as brutal if not even more brutal than those of the PKK.... The case of Ocalan has shaken Turkey. The fighting continues. Only if it is possible to find a political solution to meet the concerns of assertive Kurds will normalcy, which the large majority wants, return."

"Revenge Instead Of The Rule Of Law"

Andrea Seibel had this to say in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/1): "Abdullah Ocalan, the greatest enemy of the Turks, is now standing trial. And the Turks are stirred up. This trial will be a subtle mixture of some law with much revenge. It is very likely that the PKK leader will be sentenced to death, irrespective of whether a military judge is involved or not, irrespective of how many observers attend the trial in the Turkish Alcatraz, irrespective of the length of the trial and irrespective of how many witnesses will be heard. And it cannot even be ruled out that Ocalan will be executed. With the trial that the Turkish state is conducting against Ocalan, the country is at a crossroads. Acceptance into the EU, which the country has been hoping for...has now become more distant than ever before."

"A Litmus Test For Turkish Rule Of Law"

Right-of-center Saechsische Zeitung of Dresden remarked (6/1): "For the Turks, the Ocalan trial will be a litmus test for the (Turkish) rule of law. The preparations for and the beginning of the trial do not bode well. Turkey is faced with the dichotomy between the Orient and the Occident, between the inertia of the generals, who are not very democratic and follow the rule of law, and the declared intention of Turkey to belong to the West. There is no doubt that the West should treat Turkey in an intelligent manner, and consider the country an important bridge between the Orient and the Occident. But human and civil rights are universal. Democracies cannot accept a double standard at Europe's doorway."

"An Untenable U.S. Position"

W. Koehne told listeners of regional radio stations Norddeutscher Rundfunk of Hamburg and Westdeutscher Rundfunk of Cologne (5/31): "Ocalan will be sentenced to death, and the Court will not take much time to pronounce the verdict. The only thing that is uncertain is whether the death penalty will be carried out.... If the Europeans...want to continue to press Ankara to respect human rights, despite all past rejections, they must try to get the United States as an ally. The Turkish establishment listens to Washington rather than to Bonn or Brussels. The fact that the Clinton administration continues to hold back any criticism of Turkish human rights violations is untenable."

"Settling Old Accounts"

Stefan Bergmann had this to say in a commentary on ARD-TV's (national channel one) late evening newscast Tagesthemen (5/31): "This trial against Ocalan is threatening both to become a political show trial and to resurrect the enemy images on both sides.... The focus on Ocalan as an admired hero of peace or as a hated terrorist chief does not leave any scope for maneuvering to resolve controversies between the two sides.... The whole situation is escalating all the more because Turkey considers the trial a settling of old accounts rather than the due process of law. And the long overdue amendments to the Turkish constitution, such as the elimination of the death penalty, have not yet been implemented.... The EU should now launch initiatives for a political solution to the Kurdish problem and give Turkey a prospect for joining Europe. Maybe the Ocalan trial could then later be considered a political turnabout."

ITALY: "An Offense To Civilization"

Gad Lerner argued on the front-page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/9): "Enough now: If democratic Europe is unable to move firmly against the unacceptable request for the death sentence...the EU's authority...will be reduced significantly. We cannot stir up a NATO intervention against Milosevic's ethnic nationalism and then tolerate that an Allied country wants to wipe out, in the most uncivil way, the ethnic dispute which concerns it....

"If necessary, Europe should differentiate itself from the United States, which is...incapable of getting upset about the juridical and ethical monster of the death penalty.... The shame taking place in the Mudanya jail is a challenge to Europe and to NATO's honor."

"Ankara Looks To U.S., No Longer Dreaming Of Europe"

Antonio Ferrari remarked from Istanbul in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (6/9): "Ocalan wanted a political trial and the impression is that the special court also made the same choice.... Indeed, the rapidity with which Syria got rid of Ocalan makes us think that [the Syrian government] received an offer it could not refuse. For example: to get off the U.S. blacklist and become a credible partner in the renewed strategic picture that already has three pillars: the United States, Israel and Turkey.... In this game, Ocalan became a pawn with no support or friends.... In exchange for concrete help in catching Ocalan, Washington asked Ankara to use its air bases to strike at Saddam.... Turkey's real partner is the United States.... Indeed, the idea that Ocalan can be hanged does not provoke any great concern. Any fear of the reaction in the West? No, the Turkish reply, 'there is also the death penalty in the United States.' The EU is not even mentioned."

"So Far, Turkey Fails To Take Olive Branch"

Marco Guidi noted from Mudanya in Rome's centrist Il Messaggero (6/3): "Turkey has never been so close to peace, but the dove carrying the olive branch risks dying before someone in Ankara makes up his mind and accepts its offer. Ocalan repeated his offer from his glass prison: surrender in exchange for an amnesty. And immediately all the PKK leaders sided with him.... But, so far, Turkey's response has been silence."

"Are Ankara Authorities Willing To Change Their Approach To Kurds?"

Antonio Gambino told readers of Rome's centrist Il Messaggero (6/3): "The statements rendered by Ocalan in front of TV cameras...provoke a feeling of disgust. It is inevitable for the EU to keep that in mind when the problem of its future relations with Turkey is raised again. Yet there is a different angle we may want to explore. Ocalan was allowed to talk about a Kurdish 'linguistic and cultural identity' and to recall the secret contacts he had in the past with a series of Turkish prime ministers in order to find a compromise solution. This may mean that that the authorities in Ankara, aware of the sensation raised by the Ocalan case and of its possible repercussions, may want to exploit the current circumstances in order to emerge from the trap they have set for themselves, and, in so doing, change their approach to this problem. Obviously it would not be realistic to believe in a liberal turn on the part of Turkey. But in a case where the lives and the daily sufferings of millions of human beings are at stake, even a small change for the better, if it is real, may be considered a step forward."

"The Stalin Court Judging Ocalan"

Giorgio Bocca wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/2): "Such a shameful trial raises very serious questions on the new world order that UN and NATO say they want to build. Turkey is not only a NATO member country, but it also wants to join the EU.... We can go on forever debating how to fight terrorism...but here we have a NATO member country which is asking to join Europe...without hesitating to deny access to Italian journalists, as if to say: 'We don't tolerate reports which are not in line with our propaganda.' It was already difficult for NATO to talk about a just war against Serbia...while using its bases in Turkey and allowing Turkish jets and pilots to participate in the bombings. Turkey is a country that keeps millions of Kurds as slaves and denies them any civil rights.... Indeed, an Alliance and a Union which want to lead a new and credible world order...cannot accept partners who consider those who are different as people with no rights."

"Turkey Casts An Eye Away From Europe Proper"

A front-page editorial in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio held (6/2): "It is difficult to imagine that the military...and the political forces [in Turkey] who have just reached an agreement to form a new government can avoid the death penalty for [Ocalan].... Therefore, the Council of Europe and EU appeal for a 'fair trial' and for the banishment of the military prosecutor from the State security court is probably doomed to remain unheard.... The trial of Apo will contribute to further deteriorating the already compromised image of Turkey in Europe.... But indeed, this deterioration of its relations with Europe has pushed Turkey to reinforce its direct participation in the NATO raids against Serbia in order to obtain two results. One is to further establish its role of protector of Muslim minorities and the three Islamic states (Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia). The other one is to increase its role as privileged interlocutor of the United States in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.... Moreover, the White House is very interested in military cooperation between Israel and Turkey. The Jerusalem, Ankara and Washington triangle can be useful to contain Iran, while Ankara might play a role in the dialogue between Syria and Israel."

"Ocalan's Disconcerting Offers"

Marco Ansaldo asked from Mudanya in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/1): "The Kurdish leader...made a series of statements which in practice dismantle armed struggle. Today the man who has been fighting against theTurks for 15 years seems the shadow of the warrior leader.... How much truth is there in these latest statements that, very likely, will be the coup de theater of the coming hearings? And during his 100 days in the hands of theTurkish, was Ocalan forced to surrender or is he trading off his countrymen's defeat in order to save his life? The forthcoming hearings should give an answer to the disconcerting offers by the Kurdish leader."

RUSSIA: "Little Chance For Peace With Kurds"

Vladimir Dunayev mused in reformist Izvestiya (6/1): "By keeping the separatist leader alive, Ankara can use him to try to solve the Kurdish problem through talks, and on its own terms. But given the radicals in the ruling coalition, there is little chance for a peaceful settlement in Ankara's relations with the Kurds."

"Justice Not Ready To Handle Such Cases"

Svetlana Sukhova charged in reformist Segodnya (6/1): "What is going on is a political process which has little to do with justice. It brings to mind the trial of Chile's former dictator Pinochet in Britain. The two trials have one thing in common, the role that notorious world public opinion plays first by demanding punishment for 'the evil geniuses' and then by urging the protection of their human rights. The long and the short of it is that the system of justice, as shown by the London trial, is not ready to handle such cases."

"Symbol Of Hope For Kurds"

Yuri Garyayev filed from New York for official Parlamentskaya Gazeta (6/1): "To some Ocalan is a noble champion of his people's cause, to others he is a self- indulgent Marxist rebel whose hands are steeped in the blood of women and children. But all usually admit that this man, whatever he really is, has become a true symbol of hope for millions of Kurds who have no national home."

BELGIUM: "Turkey Proves That Kosovo Is No Precedent For Human Rights"

Socialist Le Matin (6/23) ran an op-ed piece by UCL Professor Jean Bricmont who expressed doubts that NATO's intervention in Kosovo will prevent human rights from being flouted elsewhere in the future. Bricmont opined: "Some think perhaps that dictators will henceforth be afraid of flouting human rights, and that the Alliance's intervention was thus worth it. But when one witnesses the 'Stalinist' trial of Turkey against Ocalan, one must conclude that it is not the case. Any regime will be allowed to continue flouting human rights with impunity, but on one condition: That they are a U.S. ally."

BULGARIA: "PKK Will Survive Even Without Ocalan"

Center-left Novinar judged (6/9): "The world is about to say good-bye to one of the last symbols of the Marxist revolution. Now that Ocalan has been captured, the question is what will happen to the PKK. It would be logical that the leadership and the mass membership of the party will suffer a dramatic break-up. One part of the Kurdish guerrillas will certainly continue to follow their captured leader's orders, even though from prison Ocalan is currently ordering that PKK cease terrorist action. Another part of the guerrillas will prefer following the new leadership's orders. Financially, the PKK is well provided for considering the fact that it controls a large part of the European drug traffic."

"What Is Genocide And Where Does It Exist Nowadays"

Opposition Socialist Party Duma mused (6/1): "Yes, genocide exists today, though not in Yugoslavia, but southeast of this country. Today, the Turkish government is conducting a policy of genocide towards 20 million Kurds. They are being persecuted only for being Kurds. They don't even have the right to declare their Kurdish identity. Any such declaration is punished by imprisonment. But the Western politicians are not moved by this sinister genocide which is taking place before the eyes of the whole world. They don't have hearts, they only have interests."

"The Trial Of The Century For Turkey"

Ruling party Demokratsia maintained (6/1): "Ocalan has already signaled that he would not sit and wait for his fate.... He wants to demonstrate to the world that as a legitimate political leader and peacemaker he wants to put an end to the bloodshed in the southeast of Turkey and to start looking for a political solution. These intentions may not find a place on the pages of the Turkish press, but will certainly find a sympathetic ear in the West."

DENMARK: "Western Hypocrisy"

Center-left Politiken commented (6/1): "If the course of Ocalan's trial follows the prepared [manuscript], Turkey's admission into the EU must be postponed indefinitely. Even a terrorist like Ocalan who is responsible for 30,000 deaths has the right to protection under the law. It is furthermore regrettable that the West has not condemned [Turkey's] abuse of human rights, which it is so keen to uphold in Kosovo. Could the reason for this be that Turkey has NATO's second largest army and that Turkey has sent a squadron of fighter planes into action over Serbia? This is a classic example of the West's hypocrisy."

"Time For Turkey To Show The Skeptics"

Center-left Aktuelt noted (6/1): "Now is the time for Turkey to show the skeptics that the country is capable of administering Ocalan's trial according to the same rules of international law and jurisprudence practiced in the democratic West that Turkey so badly wants to join. Turkey has the chance to start a process of reconciliation with the country's Kurdish population."

"Turkish Government Opts For Split, Rather Than Reconciliation"

Left-wing Information asserted (6/1): "Irrespective of whether Ocalan is sentenced to death or not, the Turkish government has missed a big opportunity to initiate a dialogue with the more moderate elements of the Kurdish movement. Concessions could have been given to the Kurds in the wake of Ocalan's arrest that would have taken the wind out of the PKK's sails and paved the way for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Instead, the Turkish government has chosen hard-line tactics. Rather than seeking national reconciliation they have split the country."

MALTA: "With Or Without Ocalan"

Catholic Church weekly Il-Gens argued (6/11): "The issue of the Kurdish people has been ignored for many years. The Kurdish language has been abolished and cannot even be taught.... With or without Ocalan, if the international community will not try to solve this problem, the Kurdish issue will never go away. We're currently addressing the hardships of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Like the Palestinians, they too wanted the right for autonomy, or to be recognized as a state. The Kurds have suffered as much, if not more. However, since their cause is not of any interest to bigger countries, and since they're living under the jurisdiction of a NATO country, which balances the region's strategic points, it seems that the Kurds will never have a chance for a Madrid-like conference, or peace accords similar to the ones in Dayton or Rambouillet. Perhaps this is a scandalous injustice on the international community's part. In truth, the PKK indulges in terrorism. This is condemnable. However, the Kurds have also been victims of the state's terrorism.... Turkey can utilize this trial to solve the Kurdish issue.... With or without Ocalan, should the international community just sit on the fence and not do anything about the rights of the Kurdish people, this issue will continue to be a problem."

NORWAY: "It's About Politics Not Law"

Centrist Nationen opined (6/3): "When PKK leader Ocalan stands in court and promises peace and reconciliation, it is difficult to know what lies behind it: A deal with Turkish authorities, a tactical move to save his life or an aging soldier who has come up with better ideas? Regardless of what lies behind it, both Turkey and the rest of the world should take him and the rest of the PKK leadership at their word.... This case is about politics and not law. It doesn't concern what is a fair punishment for a terrorist, but what is a fair solution for a repressed ethnic minority. A hanged Ocalan is no solution for any of the parties."

"Ocalan On Trial"

Conservative Aftenposten commented (6/1): "The PKK, which was headed by Ocalan for many years, has committed murders and acts of terrorism for years under the cover of being a national liberation movement. In this trial, neither the state--which will rule in Ocalan's case--nor the accused himself are squeaky clean. The only thing the outside world can demand is that the principles of justice are followed during the trial."

"To Be Hanged"

Independent tabloid Dagbladet observed (6/1): "Ocalan knows very well that he will most likely be hanged shortly. He also knows that he won't get a fair trial. The court, which began processing his case yesterday, consists of three judges, two civilians and one military. This is not an independent court; it will do what the Turkish generals tell it.... Ocalan's organization, the PKK, has warned that there will be acts of retaliation if Ocalan is executed. Obviously, this is a price Turkey is willing to pay. The Ocalan trial will prove that the war against the Kurds continues."

SPAIN: "An Enigma At Ocalan's Trial"

Independent El Mundo opined (6/1): "Abdullah Ocalan, the merciless Kurdish guerrilla leader...portrayed himself as an imitator of Mahatma Gandhi [during his first day of trial in a special Turkish court].... 'If I am accorded the appropriate guarantees, I can persuade all our men to come down from the hills within three months,' [he asserted]. And what would those men think now of the leader for whom they were willing to lay down their lives?... We can only speculate that Ocalan may be suffering from 'Stockholm syndrome,' that he has been tortured or brainwashed, or that he has cut a deal with the prosecution.... In any event, it seems unlikely that Ocalan's extraordinary offers will lead to an agreement any time soon between Turkey and its Kurdish minority that would result in pacifying the country.... Nor are there any indications that Kurdish leaders in the hills are in agreement with the unexpected conciliatory statements of the one who, up to now, has been their supreme leader."


JORDAN: "Ocalan's Regretful Apology"

Urayb Rintawi wrote on the op-ed page of influential Al-Dustur (6/3): "We will assume the worst and we will assume that Abdullah Ocalan was tortured or was brainwashed. Otherwise, it is very difficult for us to imagine how a rebel and the symbol of his people's cause has become just an ordinary frightened prisoner, whose only concern is to spare himself.... Ocalan's apology will not spare him. He will be executed one way or another. It would be better for Ocalan to preserve the symbol that he became for his people and his cause."

"Ocalan's Failure"

Yaser Za'atreh had this op-ed in center-left, influential Al-Dustur (6/3): "Ocalan failed the test when he finally faced his executioner.... Instead of becoming a Mandela, he has become a weak symbol begging for Turkey's mercy.... The Kurds who have burned themselves alive for his sake and those who were imprisoned for his sake have the right to feel disappointed in their leader who failed to stand fast and who turned their cause into an accusation to be apologized for."


ARGENTINA: "Ocalan Called For Peace Between Turks And Kurds"

Pro-government La Prensa carried an opinion piece by Emilio Cardenas, ambassador and former Argentine permanent representative to the UN (6/15): "Ocalan made an unexpected call for peace. It may be late, but it leaves no room for doubts.... According to Ocalan, all barriers to the use of the Kurdish language and the propagation of the Kurdish culture should be lifted. In a few words, the Kurdish people's identity should be protected.... But what matters most is this unexpected turn in Ocalan's message, in spite of the difficult circumstances which he is going through.... It may be late for him. However, it is certainly not late for his people. It is not late either for Turkish authorities who may take advantage of Ocalan's 'outstretched hand' and may begin to build, together with Kurds, bridges of good will towards peace.... The first reaction of the Kurdish guerrilla to its leader's proposal was seemingly positive. I wish it is lasting. Both parties...must attempt to close a chapter of horror which has gone on too long."

CANADA: "Double Proceedings"

Guy Taillefer offered this comment in liberal, French-language Le Devoir (6/2): "Ocalan-the-terrorist, but also chief of the Kurdish resistance, is not the only defendant in the trial that began on Monday on the island prison of Imrali.

"Behind this trial is another [defendant], i.e., Turkish democracy.... There is no lasting solution to the conflict that doesn't include cultural concessions for the Kurds, and therefore a more democratic Turkey, one capable of making peace by means other than...eradication."

For more information, please contact:

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