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Euro Court Blasts Turkey for Ocalan Trial

The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday criticized Turkey for its handling of the trial of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. The court said the trial was unfair because a military judge was present for some of the hearings and because Ocalan was given only restricted access to his lawyers. The ruling by the court, comprising seven judges, means Turkey should in theory be obliged to try Ocalan again, but it is not binding. The ruling is open to appeal by a bigger chamber comprising 17 judges at the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights is independent from the European Union. However, Turkey is under pressure from the EU to improve its human rights record as it bids to join the bloc. Turkey blames Ocalan for 30,000 deaths in a 16-year Kurdish separatist campaign by the Kurdistan Workers Party for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey. Ocalan was given a death sentence by a Turkish court in 1999. The aim of his original appeal was to lift the death sentence, but it was in any case reduced to life imprisonment in October 2002 after Turkey abolished the death penalty last August. Full Story

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