April 28, 1998 - The Kurdish Connection is Dismissed

STOCKHOLM, April 28, 1998 (Reuters) - Swedish police on Tuesday played down claims from a captured Kurdish rebel leader that his group was behind the 1986 murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Lars Nylen, head of Sweden’s National Criminal Police, said the claims appeared to go over old ground.

”Several years ago the Palme investigation commission did an in-depth investigation into similar claims from Turkey but they led to nothing,” Nylen told Reuters.

Turkish newspapers quoted Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commander Semdin Sakik, seized by Turkish troops in northern Iraq, as saying: ”We killed Olof Palme.”

A Swedish diplomat based in Turkey briefly met State Minister Sukru Sina Gurel in Ankara on Tuesday.

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Olander said the diplomat was handed information on the Palme claims.

”We have now passed this information onto the investigators of the Palme murder,” Olander told Reuters.

Palme was shot dead in a central Stockholm street in February, 1986, as he was walking home from the cinema with his wife, unguarded. His murder remains unsolved.

Swedish prosecutors are currently seeking a retrial of Christer Pettersson, a Stockholm man who was convicted of the murder in 1988 but later acquitted.

According to the Sabah daily newspaper, Sakik told investigators PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan had ordered a trusted Kurdish rebel based in Sweden to kill Palme after eight members of the group were expelled from the country.

Sakik said Palme’s government had passed a law through parliament opening the way for deportation of members of ”terrorist groups”.

”Then the PKK launched a campaign against the Palme government,” Sabah quoted the top rebel as saying.

The PKK, fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984, has launched a number of attacks on Turkish targets in Europe.

Sakik, known as ”Fingerless Zeki” after losing a thumb while firing a rocket, was captured in northern Iraq by Turkish special forces and brought back to Turkey earlier this month.