IMRALI ISLAND–Turkey (Reuters)–Kurds on Wednesday backed their leader Abdullah Ocalan’s courtroom call for an end to fighting–but a suicide bombing in southeast Turkey appeared to warn of dire results if he were hanged.
President Suleyman Demirel appealed to Ocalan’s PKK members to surrender–saying further fighting was futile.
"Your leader is calling for unity–togetherness and peace…In the end–all of you will arrive at the same point," Demirel said in an interview with Sabah newspaper.
"Surrender your weapons–hand yourselves in…If your leader is in the position he is in–what can you do?"
Ocalan–captured by Turkish special forces in Kenya three months ago–faced the third day of his trial for treason on Wednesday. He apologized on Monday for the deaths of soldiers in a conflict that has cost 29,000 lives since 1984.
Ocalan has offered to bring his fighters down from the mountains of the southeast if spared the gallows. But he said 5,000 suicide bombers would be ready to avenge him if hanged.
He told the court on Wednesday: "I never gave the order for a single suicide attack. I didn’t approve of them and I tried to stop them."
But–in the mainly Kurdish southeast–a suicide bomber blew himself up near an army checkpoint in the town of Sirnak. No-one claimed responsibility–but such actions are a common tactic of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). No-one else was hurt.
Six Turkish fighter planes bombed a valley in Tunceli province–where the rebels are believed to have a stronghold.
Turkey’s establishment refuses to negotiate with Ocalan–whom it considers a "terrorist." He is accused of responsibility for all deaths in the conflict – rebels–soldiers and civilians.
On Wednesday PKK members broke a two-day silence to say they fully backed him.
"Our entire party organization–with supreme unity and cohesion–is bound to and fully supportive of the historic efforts by our leader," the rebels said in a statement carried by the Kurdish DEM news agency.
The PKK statement said his offer was a "mature–respectful and responsible" step.
But magnanimity was matched by menace.
"If the Turkish republic and the various interlocutors in the region and the world think this is weakness they will be badly mistaken," the statement said.
"We have made every preparation and are ready to fight on in the same way we have fought for 15 years."
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said that reform to remove a military judge from the type of court trying Ocalan was one of his new government’s top priorities.
Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said the court reform was for Turkey’s own good–not to ease Western concerns about the trial.
On returning to the coastal town of Mudanya after Wednesday’s hearing–Council of Europe representative Andras Barsony warned that a decision to execute Ocalan would cause problems for Turkey.
"If Turkey implemen’s the death penalty she will be facing difficulties in Europe," Barsony told reporters.