Clashes in Turkey on anniversary of Kurdish leader's arrest

AP News
Posted: Feb 15, 2016 1:21 PM
Clashes in Turkey on anniversary of Kurdish leader's arrest

ISTANBUL (AP) — Clashes erupted in southeast Turkey on Monday after a rally to mark 17 years since the arrest of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

About 300 demonstrators assembled in the mainly Kurdish district of Diyarbakir chanting "We will win by resisting" and "long live Apo," in reference to Ocalan. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rally.

Some demonstrators retaliated by firing stun grenades and fireworks, while others banged the shutters of closed shops and banged pots in protest.

"If the Turkish people want to have peace in this country, this depends on peace and security in Kurdistan," said Ayla Akat Ata, a Kurdish politician from the city of Batman.

Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. The PKK renewed its armed campaign against the Turkish state in late July.

Turkish security forces have been engaged in large-scale operations against Kurdish militants since December, imposing controversial curfews in flashpoint areas and raising concerns about civilians caught up in the fighting.

Lawyers representing Ocalan say a lawsuit against the Greek government over his capture in 1999 is due to be heard in an Athens court on Monday.

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Ocalan, 67, was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, after a brief stay at a Greek Embassy facility and flown back to Turkey to stand trial. Ocalan's supporters say he was essentially handed over to Turkey by Greek authorities — a claim Athens rejects.

Yiannis Rachiotis, a lawyer representing Ocalan in Greece, said Ocalan is seeking "symbolic financial damages" from the Greek state.

Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, was present at an Athens news conference held by Ocalan's lawyers.