ROME: Despite Turkish outrage, Italy is unlikely to hand over the Kurdish rebel whose arrest has caused a diplomatic storm. And that won't be only because Italy doesn't extradite people to countries where they face the death penalty. "The government seems to be leaning toward actually granting political asylum to Abdullah Ocalan," says TIME reporter Martin Penner. "The Kurdish cause enjoys a great deal of sympathy on the left in Italy, which is currently in power. The government seems to want to use this opportunity to broker some sort of peace between Turkey and separatist Kurds -- although that seems very ambitious."
Ocalan heads up the Kurdistan Workers Party, whose guerrilla campaign demanding independence for Turkey's 12 million Kurds has cost 30,000 lives. The U.S. regards Ocalan as a terrorist and has backed Turkey's extradition call. Rome is expected to rule on the matter within 40 days. But, as Penner points out, Ocalan is unlikely to have gone to Italy unless he had a pretty good idea that he'd be safe there.