ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said on Thursday Ankara would not allow Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to go free and would track him down wherever he went–state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Turkey and Italy have been embroiled in a diplomatic row over Ocalan since Rome refused to extradite the guerrilla leader to face treason charges in Turkey.
"Wherever he goes in the world–we will pursue him. Whoever protects the murderer of 30,000 people–those who befriend him are the partners of a baby-killer–a murderer of old people and someone who takes pleasure from terrorist murders," Demirel said.
The agency said Turkey’s lawyers on Thursday appealed against a Rome court ruling which freed Ocalan from house arrest where he had been held since last month. Ocalan–known as ‘Apo’–was arrested in Rome when he arrived on a false passport from Russia.
"No one can shelter him–the Turkish state is powerful," said Demirel.
Turkish newspapers said on Thursday Ocalan had left his Rome villa and moved to an unspecified location.
But sources close to his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–fighting a 14-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey–denied the claim.
"These are lies–Ocalan is still in the same place he was," a spokeswoman for the PKK’s political wing told Reuters
Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema said on Wednesday a decision on Ocalan – whether to try or expel him – would be taken "in the next few days."
Rome has been reluctant to put him on trial in Italy–preferring to send him before a European tribunal. Turkey fears such a move could turn into an inquest of its treatment of its Kurdish minority.
Italy’s constitution prevents it from handing over Ocalan to a country like Turkey which maintains the death penalty.