Asrın Law Bureau has published it’s Annual Imralı Report for 2020, regarding Imralı Island Prison, where their client, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has been imprisoned in conditions of heavy isolation together with three inmates Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş and Ömer Hayri Konar (who were imprisoned on Imralı later) for over 21 years.
In their comprehensive İmrali report, Asrın Law Bureau lawyers listed various violations of rights inside Imralı High Security F Type Prison that Abdullah Öcalan, Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş and Ömer Hayri Konarover have been exposed to as well as highlighting some new developments and the situation regarding applications to visit Imrali filed by the lawyers and the family members.
Asrın Law Bureau also included in the report messages shared by Abdullah Öcalan when he was last able to speak with his lawyers and family members in 2019.
Medyanews has translated and is sharing the following selected parts of the Asrın Law Bureau’s Imralı Report:
“-In 2020, our clients Mr Abdullah Öcalan, Mr. Hamili Yıldırım, Mr. Veysi Aktaş, and Mr. Ömer Hayri Konar who have been imprisoned in İmralı F Type High-Security Closed Penal Institution, having been deprived of many of their rights such as the right to meet with their lawyer, the right to meet with members of their family, the right to telephone calls and the right to communicate through letters, faxes, etc.
Despite the pandemic conditions declared due to Covid-19 / Coronavirus, Imrali Island Prison is still a place where the “Prohibition of Torture” is being violated in Turkey. This prison is a place where we are concerned about the conditions of our clients. We are concerned about both the physical and mental situation of our clients.
-The court decision that prevented Mr. Öcalan from meeting with his family and lawyers, was lifted upon objections. Moreover, the Minister of Justice himself stated that there is no reason whatsoever for preventing him from meeting with his lawyer and family. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture also visited the island in 2020.
– The outcome of the meetings that Mr. Öcalan made 5 times with his lawyers and 3 times with his family members he expressed his ability to be able find a solution for the democratisation of the Middle East and especially for the solution of the Kurdish issue. However, after the meetings with his lawyers made on 7 August 2019 and family meetings made on 11 August 2019, there has been no further opportunity been made availiable to communicate with Mr. Öcalan in 2019.
. In 2019, more than three thousand people went on hunger strike in many parts of the world to protest against the isolation system in Imralı. Some of these strikes turned into death fasts. 9 people sacrificed their lives in these protests.
Unfortunately, [despite breaking the isolation then], no further developments happened about the situation in Imrali in the following days of 2020. Hunger strikes started again in prisons at the end of the year and Mrs. Leyla Güven has been arrested again.
. The findings of a delegation which consisted of respected people and scientists such as Melanie Gingel, Felix John Padel, Julie Ward, Savanah Taj, and Ögmundur Jónasson on February 17, 2020, are very poignant. They said:
“İmralı is a laboratory in oppression and democracy at the same time. Isolation and the lack of human rights in İmralı prison has a bearing on the condition of prisoners throughout the rest of the country. At the same time, İmralı could become a laboratory for the exercise of human rights elsewhere in Turkey – and not only in Turkey because Öcalan’s ideas are important for the solution of conflicts in the Middle East in particular and throughout the world in general.’
. The noteworthy evaluations made by Abdullah Öcalan on a visit by his family on 3 March 2020:
“Turkey now stands on top of a table with two legs; it will collapse without the third one. The third leg is the Kurds. The table can only stand with three legs, not with the two. Without the Kurds, the table will not be able to stand. They know it, too, but they try to create a Kurd that fits their benefits.”
Mister Öcalan shared the following statement during a phone-call 27 April 2020:
“They try to create an internal fight among Kurds. This policy would not gain anything for the Kurds, as well as for the people of Turkey. None of the political organisations should believe that they can strengthen themselves when they feed a fire or take encourage such fights amongst the Kurds or believe that they can achieve to build their own state. My message is addressed to all parties. Neither the Kurds nor the Middle East needs more bloodshed or a new war. They need peace and unity. My greatest message would be Peace and Unity, in the true sense.. European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) released their report on 5 August regarding their visit to Imrali Prison on 6-17 May 2019.
The CPT explicitly stated that the system and isolation in Imrali still continues and that this is unacceptable. The related parts in the CPT report are as follows:
‘However, the situation regarding the prisoners’ regime had not improved at all since the CPT’s 2016 visit. They were still only allowed to associate all together for only six hours per week, as well as in pairs for an additional three hours per week, and association during daily outdoor exercise remained prohibited. As a result, all prisoners were being held in solitary confinement for most of the time (i.e. 159 hours out of 168 hours per week, including 24 hours per day at weekends). In the Committee’s view, such a state of affairs is not acceptable. The CPT calls upon the Turkish authorities to take steps without further delay to ensure that all prisoners held at Imralı Prison are allowed to associate together during daily outdoor exercise, as well as during all other out-of-cell activities.
Further, the Committee reiterates that the underlying concept of the detention regime of persons sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment is fundamentally flawed. It once again calls upon the Turkish authorities to carry out a complete overhaul of the detention regime applied to prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in Turkish prisons.
The CPT once again calls upon the Turkish authorities to carry out a complete overhaul of the detention regime applied to prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in Turkish prisons, in the light of the precepts set out in paragraphs 82 to 84 of the report on the 2013 visit. To this end, the relevant legislation should be amended accordingly.
The CPT also notes with great concern that, following the lifting of the state of emergency (in July 2018), all prisoners continued to be denied visits by their lawyers and family members. That said, the Committee welcomes the fact that, shortly before the 2019 visit, the judicial ban on lawyers’ visits was lifted and Abdullah Öcalan was granted the first visit by lawyers since July 2011. Further, four more lawyers’ visits took place until the beginning of August 2019. However, since then all requests for visits submitted by lawyers have apparently been turned down. As regards family visits, the situation has slightly improved since the May 2019 visit with all prisoners being able to receive a visit from family members in June and August 2019, despite the existence of disciplinary sanctions of prohibition of family visits. The Committee acknowledges that there may be valid security reasons to introduce certain restrictions vis-à-vis prisoners on the exercise of their right to have contacts with the outside world.
However, a balance must be struck between such security considerations and the basic human rights of the prisoners concerned. The measures taken thus far by the Turkish authorities since the May 2019 visit are a significant step in the right direction. That said, much more needs to be done to render the situation acceptable. More specifically, a sustainable system of regular visits by family members and lawyers should be developed for all prisoners held at Imralı Prison.’
-Following this report of the CPT, the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved on 24.10.2020 this report, which suggested the lifting of the isolation in Imralı.
Turkey’s response to the CPT report: New decisions of bannings and further isolation.
None of the applications made by Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers to visit their client in Imrali Prison has been given any response after the five lawyer visits that were held after 19 April 2019.
After 20 January 2020 none of the applications submitted by the family members of Abdullah Öcalan have even been responded to and no reasons for the refusals have been given.
New decisions relating to further restrictions were taken on 7 September, 23 September and 30 September regarding the telephone rights, visits of lawyers and visits of lawyers and family members, consecutively.
Therefore, a defiant response was given to the CPT by these new decisions of bans and restrictions and the isolation has actually been deepened not lifted.
General Applications to Visit Imralı Prison
Not one of the subsequent ninety six applications for lawyers to visit Abdullah Öcalan was allowed and sixty eight of those applications have never even been given a response. Twenty eight of these applications were rejected based on judicial decisions. Forty of the fifty applications for family members to visit Abdullah Öcalan were never even given a response; for nine of these applications disciplinary board decisions were shown as a grounds for refusal and one application was directly rejected.
The violations of the right to communicate with the outside world
In 2020, sixty five applications were filed for lawyers and thirty nine applications were filed for family members to communicate with Abdullah Öcalan via a telephone call. Thirty seven of the applications filed for lawyers calls have never been given a response to. Twenty eight of the applications were rejected based on judicial decisions.
The actual whereabouts of 30 letters routinely sent to Abdullah Öcalan from his lawyers remains unknown, as sending any letters from or to Imrali Prison and the outside world is completely impossible due to a deliberate policy of “absolute lack of information”.
The details of the necessary documents and any related case files regarding Abdullah Öcalan’s case are kept as top-secret documents whilst no information regarding these documents are shared with his lawyers.
Not only on a national level, but on the international level, an unjust process against the law is being followed.
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Grand Chamber detected numerous violations of rights and declared those on their decision dated 12 May 2005.
The ECHR Grand Chamber decision shared the evaluation that Abdullah Öcalan has not been tried in independent or impartial courts, and therefore must be re-tried in an independent and impartial court.
However, this decision of the ECHR was not been applied and Abdullah Öcalan has never been re-tried.
The Constitutional Court of Turkey has given a decision of a violation of freedom of speech and thought regarding the ban on the book written by Mister Öcalan.
However, the local authorities have chosen to take new decisions of bans, never complying with the decision of the Constitutional Court, dated 15 June 2014.
Despite the reports of the CPT the policy of not allowing any lawyers or family members to visit Imrali Prison has been continuing arbitrarily for over 21 years.
The fact that Turkey explicitly ignores the reports and the decisions of both the ECHR and the CPT, which are the judicial mechanisms of the Council of Europe is a matter of responsibility for the Council of Europe. To build and maintain a system of isolation and torture on such a level could have been only possible through the approval and/or ignorance of the international institutions.
Mister Öcalan has established a democratic nation solution against the nation-state tensions, which plays one side against the other amongst the peoples and he has turned this project into a life project on a shared geography, where the Kurdish people can live in peace with the fellow peoples.
Therefore, the system of isolation and torture means the isolation of the democratic solution embodied in Mister Öcalan. It cannot be denied that Abdullah Öcalan has insistently tried to give efforts to increase the possibility and conditions of a solution.
An important development occurred in 2020 when the International Initiative for Freedom for Öcalan declared and accepted 10 October as the “International Day of Freedom for Öcalan”. Kurds and their friends around the world shared the demand to free Öcalan from the four corners of the earth.
In order to overcome the Imrali Isolation System, it is surely beyond doubt that the universal human rights must be recognised, that family members and lawyers shall be allowed to visit Imrali Prison and all anti-democratic policies directly related to the isolation must be lifted.
To be able to overcome this system, which continously regenerates itself, is only possible with Mister Öcalan and the Kurdish people, who are integrated with him, becoming as free and as equal as other peoples around the world.
As the Asrın Law Bureau, we invite all sensitive sections of societies and communities to give support and contribute to the democratic struggle of justice and law in this respect.