NEWS

Court revisits Ocalan nightmare

The three men who would least like to recall Greece’s most humiliating postwar diplomatic fiasco appeared in an Athens court yesterday to testify in the trial of 12 people accused of helping smuggle into Greece and hiding Abdullah Ocalan in January 1999. The Kurdish separatist leader – who is now serving a life sentence in a top-security Turkish prison – is the 13th defendant, accused of illegally entering the country. At yesterday’s second session of the court, Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, then public order minister, denied any knowledge, at the time, of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader’s entry, sojourn and departure from Greece. Petsalnikos said one of the main defendants, retired navy commodore Antonis Naxakis, had shown «boundless frivolity» in sneaking Turkey’s most-wanted man of the day into the country, as he knew the PKK leader was an undesirable for Athens. The former minister added that Turkey had threatened to declare war on any country that offered Ocalan succor. But Petsalnikos said he did not believe Naxakis had meant to endanger Greece’s peaceful relations with other states, as charged. He complained that «no self-respecting country would conduct such a trial, exposing itself to international ridicule.» Ocalan was spirited away to Greece’s embassy in Nairobi, only to be abducted by Turkish agents on February 15, 1999. Petsalnikos was subsequently sacked, along with the foreign affairs and interior ministers of the day, Theodoros Pangalos and Alekos Papadopoulos. The latter two waited outside the courthouse yesterday, but were not called to testify. Pangalos is due to testify today. Defendants include Ocalan’s two Kurdish female secretaries, a pilot, Corfu airport police officers, airline employees and an elderly writer who put up the Kurdish leader for a night.