The protestors in Strasbourg chanted “Free Öcalan.” Their demand is not about to be met, but the Turkish government has indicated it might be ready to re-try Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan. Today the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Öcalan’s 1999 trial for “treason through separatism” was unfair. He is currently serving a life sentence as the sole inmate of a Turkish prison.
The European court reconfirmed a previous ruling that the trial was unfair because a military judge was present for some of the hearings and because Öcalan had only restricted access to his lawyers. The former leader of the PKK or Kurdish Workers’ Party was found guilty of masterminding a separatist revolt in south-eastern Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s.The conflict killed at least 30,000 people.
Öcalan was captured by Turkish agents when he was in Kenya. His original death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after Turkey scrapped the death penalty in line with European Union requirements.
Ankara cannot afford to ignore the ruling because it hopes to join the EU one day. However, it faces pressure from nationalists to punish a man whom they see as a terrorist.