Turkey's chance to heal

After Ocalan: Terrorist trial should be coupled with more rights for oppressed Kurds.

February 24, 1999

NOW that it will try the terrorist Abdullah Ocalan, Turkey should have the confidence and strength to end the oppression that drove so many of its 8 million Kurds into the arms of Mr. Ocalan's violent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The foreign ministers of the 15-member European Union said the EU expects Mr. Ocalan to receive "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."

That cuts little ice with Turkey, which was denied membership in the EU for what it can only assume was ethnic prejudice with religious and racist overtones. Turkey also blames EU member Greece for aiding the PKK and Mr. Ocalan, even as Kurds blamed Greece for his capture upon leaving the Greek embassy in Nairobi.

So it would help if the United States echoed the European sentiments. U.S. intelligence and diplomatic aid led Turkish commandos to the prey. If only to guarantee continued U.S. access to the air base at Incirlik for operations against Iraq, Washington has considered Mr. Ocalan a dangerous terrorist who should be brought to justice.

For its part, the PKK ought to stand down. It is not winning. And it is precisely for that reason that Turkey can afford greater decency in dealing with the Kurds, who are denied their aspirations and the right to use their language in print, broadcasting and school.

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