Kurds Mark 13th Anniversary of PKK Founder’s Capture

Posted February 15th, 2012 at 5:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Kurds in parts of southeastern Turkey have marked the 13th anniversary of the capture of former Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan with protests and business closures.

Supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party threw Molotov cocktails at the police in the mostly Kurdish city of Hakkari, in a show of support for Ocalan. Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the rioters.

Many stores in Kurdish-populated cities kept their doors closed in silent protest over Ocalan's imprisonment. Kurds living in other countries also marked the day with protests.

The jailed Kurdish separatist and PKK founder was captured in Kenya February 15, 1999 and returned to Turkey for trial. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment upon the abolition of the death penalty for peace offenses in 2002. Supporters and Kurdish politicians have been calling for Ocalan's release.

Annual protests in the Kurdish-populated areas of Turkey and elsewhere often turn violent. Germany has threatened to deport Kurds who continue to hold violent protests in support of Ocalan.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 in a campaign to create an independent Kurdish state. The European Union, Turkey and the United States list the group as a terrorist organization.