Although Turkey hasn’t executed anyone since 1984, its government is under intense domestic pressure to hang the man it has held personally responsible for the more than 30,000 deaths caused by the Kurdish insurgency and the government’s own crackdown. But the sentence is now due to go before an appeals court, and will also be appealed by Ocalan at the European Court of Human Rights, so Ankara will have plenty of time to allow passions to cool before it takes a decision. Ocalan’s capture and conviction may have eliminated any security threat he may pose to Turkey, but Ankara’s political battle over the Kurdish question is far from over.
European pressure on Turkey to commute the death sentence of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan looks set to grow, but that pressure may, paradoxically, help seal his fate. Nationalist passions may make it even more difficult for the government to back down on hanging Ocalan in the face of violent protests by his supporters and pressure from Europe. Germany led the European chorus warning Ankara that hanging Ocalan might deal a death blow to Turkey’s ambitions to enter the European Union, and it was easy to see why Bonn was nervous: Turkish-owned businesses were firebombed across Germany overnight Wednesday, as the country, which plays host to 1.5 million Turks and almost half a million Kurds, threatened to erupt in violence. Ocalan’s networks of supporters stretch all across Europe, and the U.S. stepped up security at a number of its embassies and closed two consulates in Turkey Wednesday fearing retaliation from Kurdish militants who accuse Washington of helping Turkey capture their leader.