Mehmet Öcalan and Mazlum Dinç, Abdullah Öcalan’s brother and legal guardian respectively, have appealed to visit the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader in the İmralı island prison as his absolute incommunicado status extends into the 18th consecutive month.
Family members of Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş have also appealed to the chief public prosecutor’s office in the north-western Bursa province to be allowed to visit the prison, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Friday.
Öcalan’s lawyers have been submitting appeals to visit twice a week for years, but most of these appeals remain without a response. An appeal dated 22 November 2021 was rejected on the grounds that he had been issued a six-month communications ban in October over behaviour behind bars. The prison administration refused to provide concrete information on what happened.
The visitation ban for Öcalan’s family should have ended around the same time as the lawyers’ appeal, on 18 November 2021, but their appeals also remained without response. On 28 March this year, the family appealed to the Bursa court for sentence executions. On March 29, they received a rejection on the grounds that Öcalan had been issued a new disciplinary penalty.
Lawyers took the continued communications bans to the Constitutional Court in May, arguing that the incommunicado status constitutes torture and a violation of the right to family life and privacy, as well as the right to a fair trial. As of 26 August, the top Turkish court has not resolved this appeal.
The most recent known official ban on communications for the İmralı prisoners should have ended on 7 June, but appeals made after that date were also rejected on the grounds of disciplinary penalties. Lawyers appealed on 15 June, and received a response that all prisoners had been issued a new disciplinary penalty on 31 May.
Öcalan has been held in the İmralı prison under strict isolation conditions since his capture and trial in 1999 over treason and terrorism charges. For the first 10 years, the PKK founder was the only inmate in the isolated prison. Since 2009, five other PKK prisoners were sent to serve their sentences in İmralı, and can socialise with Öcalan under restricted prison conditions.
The prison had not allowed Öcalan to contact his family via telephone until April 2020, in violation of convicts’ rights. In March 2021, following another long stint of no-communications, Mehmet Öcalan was allowed to speak with his brother for a few minutes before the call was cut off mid-talk.
Öcalan has not been able to receive council from his lawyers since August 2019, and his last opportunity before that was back in 2011.