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Ocalan Denies Murder Charges

On trial for his life, Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan Tuesday rejected responsibility for a 1986 killing and a 1993 slaughter.

Ocalan told a Turkish court his ex-wife may have been behind the 1986 murder of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. He also said he was not behind the mass killing years later that led to a sharp escalation of the 15-year guerrilla war.

Judge Turgut Okyay, one of a panel of three judges trying Ocalan on treason charges, pressed the rebel leader on reports that his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was behind Palme's death, which shocked the Nordic nation.

A lone gunman shot the prime minister dead at point-blank range while he was walking home with his wife. Ocalan denied giving any orders to kill Palme after Sweden refused asylum to former PKK members.

"This is a conspiracy that has been placed on my shoulders," the Anatolian news agency quoted him as telling the court from a bullet-proof glass box.

But, on the second day of his treason trial, he said he had heard that a Kurdish splinter group was responsible.

"I have received information that PKK Rejin killed Palme," Ocalan said, adding that his former wife and her new husband were behind the rival group, mainly based in Europe.

Turkey's state-run TRT television reports Ocalan also denied accusations that he ordered the 1993 massacre of 33 unarmed soldiers in the southeastern province of Bingol.

The killings ended a cease-fire declared by the PKK and prompted the military to intensify its fight to eradicate the rebels in southeast Turkey.

As part of the offensive, human rights groups say, the military launched a scorched earth campaign, burning thousands of villages suspected of supporting the rebels.

Ocalan, who is accused of ordering the killings in a 139-page indictment encompassing his life as a rebel leader, said the assault was carried out by renegade guerrillas acting independently, TRT said.

"It is not possible to condone the death of these soldiers," he was quoted as saying.

Ocalan surprised the Turkish court at the opening of his trial Monday by ordering his fighters to end their struggle and threatening massive bloodshed if he were hanged.

Turkish newspapers expressed outrage Tuesday at Ocalan's mix of begging and bargaining.

"It's too late," declared a headline in the daily Zaman newspaper.

Ocalan said that if he were allowed to contact his fighters, he could talk them into laying down their weapons within three months and end the rebellion that has killed 37,000 people, the majority of them Kurds.

Ocalan's offer to transform his group into a political organization comes as his guerrilla fighters have faced serious setbacks on the battlefield and appears designed to save his life and what is left of his guerrilla group.

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