Pangalos faults many for Ocalan

Theodoros Pangalos, who was fired as foreign minister over the Ocalan affair in early 1999, told an Athens court yesterday that Greece would have been forced to face Turkey at war if it had tried to give the Kurdish rebel leader refuge. Testifying as a witness, Pangalos also defended retired naval commodore Antonis Naxakis, who is accused of a felony in endangering Greece’s security by leading the effort to smuggle Abdullah Ocalan into the country. Another 12 people, including Ocalan, who is serving a life-term prison sentence in Turkey, are charged with involvement. «Those who are really responsible for bringing Ocalan to Greece are not in the dock today,» Pangalos noted, referring to the fact that 130 deputies from all parties had signed an invitation to Ocalan as well as the writings of journalists and statements from public figures. The government’s position was that Ocalan should be kept out of the country. «Naxakis played only a technical role and it was others who convinced Ocalan to come to Greece,» Pangalos said. «The impression had been created that Ocalan was welcome in our country.» He attributed the effort to aid Ocalan to «a mistaken reading of the situation and of the role of the American side.» Turkish security forces, with US help, grabbed Ocalan as he was leaving his refuge in the Greek ambassador’s residence in Nairobi, Kenya on Feb. 15, 1999. Pangalos said Greece risked war with Turkey if it tried to shelter Ocalan. «In that case, we would have had to choose between (suicide) and handing Ocalan over to the Turks, a painful thing,» he said. Greece would have missed its effort to join the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union, he added. Two other ministers lost their jobs over the affair. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, who was then public order minister, testified on Monday, the trial’s first day. Yesterday, Alekos Papadopoulos, who was interior minister and was out of the country when Ocalan entered, said he had called for the arrest of everyone involved but that, when he returned to Greece, «the political handling of the issue had begun, based on the idea of Ocalan’s willing exit from Greece.» The trial is set to continue tomorrow.