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Europe

Kurds demonstrate in Strasbourg for Ocalan, Paris murder victims

media Demonstrators carry red flags and Ocalan's portrait on their protest in … Reuters/Jean-Marc Loos

Over 10,000 Kurds demonstrated in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Saturday, demanding the release of Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan and accusing France of dragging its feet in solving the murder of three Kurdish women in Paris last month.

The annual rally in the city that is home to the European parliament was boosted this year by peace talks between the Turkish secret services and Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), who has been in jail since being arrested in Nairobi on 15 February 1999.

Demonstrators from several European countries, mainly France, Germany and Benelux, carried banners calling for a “Free Kurdistan” and “justice” for the three women, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez, killed on 9 January.

A 30-year-old Turk, Omer Güney, who knew the women and has told investigators that he has been a PKK member for two years, has been charged with the murder and is in jail, awaiting trial.

The demonstrators insisted that he was acting under instructions and accused the French of not wanting to find out who was behind the crime.

They also protested against the recent arrest of 17 Kurds in Bordeaux and Toulouse, in south-west France, on accusations of trying to extort funds for the PKK.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appealed to residents of the Kurdish-majority south-east of his country to back the peace moves in a speech in the town of Midyat, whose population is a mix of Kurds, Turks and Arabs.

"We have initiated a process... to give a chance to a political solution, he told an audience of supporters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). “As long as you stand behind us, we will tackle this problem determinedly."

The Turkish government is reportedly drawing up changes to anti-terrorism laws that could lead to the release of nearly 1,000 prisoners jailed for allegedly helping the PKK.

Franco-Turkish student Sevil Sevimli is to appeal against a five-year prison sentence for “terror propaganda” handed down by a court in Bursa this week.

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