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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-23

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 23/02/1999 (ANA)


  • EU calls on Turkey to give Ocalan a fair and open trial
  • Simitis speaks with EU counterparts
  • Justice minister appeals to EU
  • Greece lashes out at Turkey's fabrications
  • European lawyers call for fair Ocalan trial
  • Papandreou calls for 'cool-headedness'
  • Kranidiotis discusses Kosovo problem with Albanian FM
  • SE European audiovisual institutes urge cooperation
  • Political party leaders speak at Ioannina liberation anniversary
  • Swiss tourist goes missing in Crete
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


EU calls on Turkey to give Ocalan a fair and open trial

European Union foreign ministers yesterday issued a statement calling on Turkey to take all the necessary measures so as to ensure Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's trial is conducted on the basis of the rule of law, with Ocalan receiving access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial.

"The European Union takes note of the assurance of the Turkish Government that Abdullah Ocalan will have a fair trial. It expects this to mean fair and correct treatment and an open trial according to the rule of law before an independent court, with access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial. It underlines once more its strict opposition to the death penalty," the statement said.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who insisted on the issuing of a statement concerning Ocalan's capture and transfer to an island prison in Turkey last week, and the long-standing Kurdish problem, expressed his satisfaction over the EU statement.

The EU foreign ministers condemned all forms of terrorism but underlined that the fight against terrorism had to be dealt with through respect of all human rights and democratic rules.

They also expressed their regret at the acts of violence which followed the capture of Ocalan.

In his press statements, Mr. Papandreou said: "This statement gives Turkey the opportunity, if it meets the conditions set out in the statement, to strengthen its ties with the European Union."

Greece, he added, had insisted on the statement because a large number of Kurdish political refugees had found sanctuary in Greece and other European countries and because it believed the statement would contribute to achieving stability in the wider region of the Balkans.

He underlined that Turkey as a member of the Council of Europe would have to satisfy a series of commitments in relation to Ocalan's trial.

He linked the Kurdish issue to the concern over Kosovo, saying that if Serbia had respected human and minority rights in the strife-torn region, today's tension would not be an issue.

Responding to Turkish reporters, the foreign minister said that "if Turkey thinks it can use Greece as a scapegoat for the Ocalan issue it is mistaken."

He said that many Kurds living in Greece were political refugees and engaged in political activity but under no circumstances could they be considered terrorists.

"Greece, like many other European Union countries, could not accept extending political asylum to Abdullah Ocalan but attempted for primarily humanitarian reasons, to assist him in finding refuge," Mr. Papandreou said.

"This attempt failed but Prime Minister Costas Simitis has ordered that any criminal responsibilities in this affair be investigated," he added.

Greece had not informed its EU partners about the fact that Ocalan had requested refuge from Greece for one main reason, he said. The European Union proved not to be in a position to take a joint stand on the issue.

Mr. Papandreou said many "paranoic scenarios" had been published recently about Greece's supposed links to terrorist acts in Turkey but that the main issue was a fair and just trial for Abdullah Ocalan.

On Sunday, the EU foreign ministers indicated backing a proposal by Athens that the 15-nation bloc should adopt a joint approach to the Kurdish question and seek a fair trial for Ocalan, diplomatic sources said earlier yesterday.

Greece's newly appointed Foreign Minister George Papandreou told the ministers that the Kurdish question was not a dispute between Greece and Turkey, but an issue that involved the fundamental principles of international law, especially the protection of human rights and the rights of minorities, the sources said.

A solution to the Kurdish problem would not dispute Turkey's territorial integrity, they quoted Mr. Papandreou as saying.

He asked the EU to take a joint, public stand on the Kurdish issue, on humane prison conditions for Ocalan and a fair trial, including access to the lawyers of his choice, which has so far been denied.

Several EU members have privately indicated their annoyance at Turkey's diplomatic offensive to have Greece reprimanded by the EU along with other countries that as Turkey says backed Ocalan's alleged terrorist activities, the sources said.

In private meetings with his counterparts on the sidelines of Sunday's session, Mr. Papandreou acknowledged the government's political responsibility in the outcome of the Ocalan affair, and said that judicial authorities were looking into possible criminal responsibility.

Given the sensitivity shown by Greek public opinion, Greece had the choice between going public with the Ocalan issue or assuming the risk of his flight. It chose the latter, which ended in his capture by Turkey, and the government was still paying for that choice, the sources quoted Mr. Papandreou as saying.

Simitis speaks with EU counterparts

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday contacted his Finnish and Danish counterparts, informing them of Greece's intention to bring up the issue of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan -- who was apprehended by Turkish secret service agents in Kenya last week after leaving the protection of the Greek embassy there -- at yesterday's meeting of the EU foreign ministers' council.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Mr. Simitis had telephone conversations Sunday with premiers Paavo Lipponen of Finland and Poul Rasmussen of Denmark, following similar conversations Saturday with premiers Anto-nio Guterres of Portugal and Goran Persson of Sweden.

Mr. Simitis told his EU counterparts that a just trial and adherence to the rules of justice must be ensured for Ocalan, the Kurdish leader should be represented by lawyers of his own choosing, the presence of international observers at the trial should be ensured, as should Ocalan's physical well- being, while the prospect of a death sentence should be ruled out, Mr. Reppas added.

Justice minister appeals to EU

In a letter to the presidents of the European Union's Council of Ministers Otto Schilly and Ms. Gmelin-Debler (the German Interior and Justice ministers respectively), Greek Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos called for a fair trial for Ocalan.

In a letter addressed to his counterparts concerning Ocalan, Mr. Yiannopoulos underlined the inhuman and barbaric living conditions and degradation of human personality, such as the relevant scenes broadcast worldwide on TV.

Mr. Yiannopoulos called for a fair trial for Ocalan, invoking the UN's Human Rights proclamation, the International Treaty of Rome, the constitutions and penal legislation of countries which honour the functioning of "the democratic principle" and apply in practice the principle of a state of law.

In a related development, the Union of Judges and Prosecutors has addressed a letter to the International Union of Judges, calling for its effective intercession with Turkey's judicial and political authorities to have humane treatment secured for Ocalan and the carrying out of his trial in accordance with rules acceptable worldwide.

The letter said that the International Union of Judges was obliged to demand observance by Turkey of all rules anticipating protection of the rights of every man, both during the runup process and the main trial itself.

The Union of Judges and Prosecutors said that it will participate with a representative in a special mission to attend the Ocalan trial.

Greece lashes out at Turkey's fabrications

Greece has lashed out at Turkey over its attack on the government stemming from the Ocalan affair.

"Using inaccuracy and fabrication Turkey is trying to create a whole intrigue at Greece's expense. It is building up an outside enemy in order to divert international attention away from the basic problem, which is recognition and respect for the rights of the Kurdish people," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Sunday evening.

The spokesman was responding to statements on the same day by Tur-kish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

Mr. Cem had said he expected the European Union to examine the case of Greece, which he alleged had opposed the bloc's charter, commitments and obligations.

"It is audacious for this country to present itself as a prosecutor when it is illegally occupying half of Cyprus and has to answer to international law and order for systematically violating the law and flagrantly violating human rights. Even today it arrested European journalists," Mr. Reppas said.

He added that Turkey could not avoid its responsibility by hiding behind slander against Greece.

European lawyers call for fair Ocalan trial

The Union of European Lawyers Associations (CCBE) on Saturday called on Turkish authorities to give imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan a fair trial, and refrain from imposing the death sentence.

"Through its participation in the Council of Europe, Turkey has obligations that mean guaranteeing a fair and open trial in line with the principles of international law," the CCBE said in a statement.

"It is also obliged to allow Ocalan to choose his own defence lawyers and agree to give them access. European lawyers are seeking a commitment from Ankara that the death penalty will not be imposed," the statement said.

The association's president is Sotirios Yelios, a Greek lawyer.

Papandreou calls for 'cool-headedness'

"The country, united, will confront the problems that have arisen from the Ocalan issue," Foreign Minister George Papandreou said Sunday.

Speaking in Luxembourg before a two-day EU Foreign Ministers' meeting on Agenda 2000, the Kosovo crisis and the Kurdish issue, the newly-sworn-in foreign minister also called for "cool-headedness and seriousness", adding that "we must rise up to the cir cumstances".

Mr. Papandreou reiterated that he had demanded full clarification of the Ocalan issue in a "responsible, brave and democratic" manner.

The solution, he warned, would not be found in hasty movements.

Kranidiotis discusses Kosovo problem with Albanian FM

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis met Sunday with visiting Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, for talks that included the latest developments in the Kosovo crisis in light of the Rambouillet negotiations.

The two men stressed the need for progress in the peace talks in France so that agreement could be achieved before the expiry of the new deadline given by the Contact Group, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Mr. Milo reiterated Albania's positions on the situation in the troubled Yugoslav province, stressing that the Kosovo Albanians were now more prepared to accept the agreement than the Serb side, since they desired the presence of an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

Mr. Kranidiotis underscored the critical nature of the situation, warning that the margins were running out and that the two sides needed to make every possible effort to reach agreement.

On Greek-Albanian bilateral relations, the two sides confirmed the excellent level of those relations, which they said was proved by the close contact and cooperation between the two governments.

In that context, Mr. Milo said Tirana was examining in a positive light the renewal of the Greek military force's (ELDAL-2) term in Albania, which ends next month, the ministry announcement said.

SE European audiovisual institutes urge cooperation

Participants in the 1st Meeting of Audiovisual Institutes and other related organisations from southern and eastern Europe expressed support for the creation of an information exchange network at the end of the meeting at the Zappeion Mansion in Athens on Saturday.

Representatives from 32 organisations in the region related to the audiovisual sector (Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey) participated in the two-day meeting. European organisations such as the EUREKA programme, the European Audiovisual Observatory, the Eurostatistics Service and the Royaumont Initiative also participated.

The meeting was organised by the Greek Audiovisual Means Institute with the purpose of promoting a constructive and equal cooperation in the wider audiovisual sector (radio, television, cinema, video, multimeans and new technologies).

Cooperation will concern the circulation of institutional information (legislation) and statistics on economic and social factors in the European audiovisual industry.

Political party leaders speak at Ioannina liberation anniversary

Three-day festive events commemorating the 86th anniversary of the liberation of the city of Ioannina from Ottoman rule heightened on Sunday with a big parade including troops, schoolchildren and boy scouts.

The government was represented by Minister to the Prime Minister Costas Geitonas, while at the same time main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas and Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras were also present.

Addressing a banquet of his party's Prefectural Committee in Ioannina on Saturday night, Mr. Karamanlis once again called for the resignation of Prime Minister Costas Simitis over the erroneous handling of the issue concerning Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

"Mistakes and omissions occur, but tragic mistakes can rarely occur to such an extent," he said.

Mr. Karamanlis said that all that had happened in past days were degrading and childish, adding that in Parliament the government had lied to the parties, Greek society and international public opinion over the Ocalan affair.

In a statement, Mr. Tsovolas said the people felt ashamed and humiliated over foreign policy and the handling of national issues, primarily taking place over the past three years.

He said that the Turks and their protectors must realise that the Greek people and Hellenism will never permit their further ridiculing.

Mr. Tsovolas said that after the recent events the country needs "elections here and now."

Mr. Samaras said that the people have withdrawn their confidence in Prime Minister Costas Simitis and that he must realise that his staying in power can no longer continue.

Swiss tourist goes missing in Crete

Police have launched a search for a Swiss tourist who went missing near Iraklio on the island of Crete, authorities said on Monday.

The disappearance of the man, identified as Gerard Faton (phonetic spelling), 49, was reported by a Swiss friend, who told police he disappeared on Sunday while they were cycling on the Ano Vianno-Pyrgos road.

The two cyclists were about 150 metres apart when Faton vanished, the friend said. After failing to locate him, she contacted police.

Local residents are also searching for Faton, who was reportedly seen cycling from Pyrgos towards the Rethymno road.


The outlook for today is overcast with local rain and storms in the west. Clouds will clear in the afternoon. Winds southwesterly strong to gale force, abating in the afternoon. Temperatures in the north will range from 3-10, on the mainland and Ionian 5-16, and in the Aegean 9-17. Athens will be partly cloudy and windy with possible rain. Same in Thessaloniki.


Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 285.795 Pound sterling 466.657 Japanese yen (100) 238.606 French franc 48.717 German mark 163.390 Italian lira (100) 16.504 Irish Punt 405.761 Belgian franc 7.922 Luxembourg franc 7.922 Finnish mark 53.747 Dutch guilder 145.012 Danish kr. 42.997 Austrian sch. 23.224 Spanish peseta 1.921 Swedish kr. 35.871 Norwegian kr. 36.716 Swiss franc 199.838 Port. Escudo 1.594 Aus. dollar 182.389 Can. dollar 192.408 Cyprus pound 550.560 Euro 319.563


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