Turkish court refuses retrial for jailed Kurdish leader

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A Turkish court has rejected a request from jailed Kurd leader Abdullah Ocalan for a retrial under legal reforms that took effect in April, news website Bianet reported Friday.

An Ankara court specializing in human rights issues rejected the request by a majority vote of its judges, a week after Ocalan’s lawyers sought a retrial and the suspension of his sentence.

One of his lawyers, Rezan Sarica, told AFP last week that the new legal reforms “pave the way for a new trial for all those convicted who could not be retried under the old law.”

The 64-year-old founder of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was captured in February 1999 and sentenced to death two months later as the head of a terrorist organization.

The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 when Turkey abolished the death penalty.

Ocalan has been in negotiations since late 2012 with Turkish authorities for an end to the Kurdish conflict, which has cost some 45,000 lives since 1984.

In June the rebels began withdrawing from bases in northern Iraq. They are now waiting for gestures in return from the central government.

They have demanded the right to Kurdish-language education as well as a degree of autonomy in the southeast of Turkey where they predominate.

In May, the PKK demanded better detention conditions for Ocalan including allowing him to communicate more easily with the outside world, and to be seen by an independent doctor.

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