ROME (Reuters)–Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan said on Wednesday he wanted to pursue the same path to peace as the IRA in Northern Ireland and declared he was willing to stand trial in a country that could assure him a fair hearing.
In a statement read out by his lawyer Giuliano Pisapia–the detained guerrilla leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) unveiled a seven-point peace plan.
"We want to do as the Basques (in Spain) and the IRA. We ask for greater autonomy and freedom–respect for our language and culture–and democracy like in the rest of Europe," said the statement–which also reiterated a pledge made last week by the PKK chief to renounce terrorism and violence.
"All of the PKK agrees with this…and from Italy I ask Europe to support our peace plan," it added.
Asked about an assertion earlier by Turkey–which has demanded Ocalan’s extradition – that it would be satisfied if he were prosecuted in a country such as Germany or Italy–Pisapia said:
"He is willing to be tried in a place where he will be judged according to the rule of law because he’s sure he’ll be able to demonstrate he hasn’t committed any terrorist act. He’s only asking a fair trial–the one Turkey cannot guarantee him."
In his statement–Ocalan put forward seven ideas to resolve the PKK’s 14-year-long armed campaign for self rule in Turkey’s southeast:
*The end of (Turkish) military action against Kurdish villages;
*A return of displaced Kurdish refugees to their villages;
*Elimination of what he called the "village guard corps";
*Autonomy for the Kurdish region without damaging Turkey’s borders;
*Recognition for Kurds of all democratic freedoms enjoyed by Turks;
*Recognition of Kurdish identity–language and culture;
*Freedom and pluralism of religion.
The statement also said the PKK had almost clinched a deal with the Turkish military over holding an international conference on the Kurdish question.
The PKK was planning to hold a congress next month to officially approve the plan–the statement said–but did not specify where the congress would be held.
Ocalan’s message added that the PKK was ready to accept "unconditionally" any position Europe would adopt to resolve the Kurdish question. "We ask for the start of dialogue and a political path–which should be monitored by the United Nations and the European Union," it said.
Turkey–whose human rights record has been criticized by the European Commission–blames Ocalan and the PKK for more than 29,000 deaths caused by both sides in the Kurdish conflict and has asked PKK leader’s extradition.
But on Wednesday the Turkish government–which later lost a confidence vote in parliament–ceased insisting that Italy hand him over–saying it would be satisfied if Ocalan was prosecuted under international law against terrorism and tried in a third country such as Italy or Germany.
The move was likely to help defuse a row between Italy and Turkey–which grew last week when an Italian court ruled it could not recognize Turkey’s arrest warrant for Ocalan because the Italian constitution forbids extradition of suspects to a country where they could face the death penalty.
But the Ocalan case has also caused tensions between the new Social Democratic governmen’s in Rome and Bonn.
Italy only recognizes the arrest warran’s for Ocalan issued by German prosecutors and has urged Germany to make up its mind on whether it wants Ocalan extradited.
Pisapia–who is a deputy for the Greens Party–said he believed Ocalan’s request for political asylum would be upheld by an Interior Ministry commission examining the request.
But he said he did not expect the commission’s decision for several more weeks–possibly even after Germany’s deadline to ask for extradition–by the third week of December–runs out.