Close relatives of political prisoners in the prison in Turkey’s İmralı island made a public announcement on Wednesday in the Turkish parliament, calling for an end to the severe isolation that has been going on for years in the prison.
The announcement was read out by Ömer Öcalan, an MP for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the nephew of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He was joined in the press conference by Emin Konar, the brother of political prisoner Ömer Hayri Konar, and Sabiha Aktaş, the sister of political prisoner Veysi Aktaş.
Ömer Öcalan began by relating how Emin Konar, Sabiha Aktaş and accompanying lawyers were subjected to attempts to prevent them from entering the parliamentary quarters. He then emphasized that they had had absolutely no contact with their relatives for more than eight months, after the last phone conversation between Abdullah Öcalan and his brother Mehmet Öcalan on 25 March 2021.
Ömer Öcalan explained that the situation regarding the prisoners’ contacts with their lawyers was far worse. “While Abdullah Öcalan has not been allowed visits from his lawyers since 7 August 2019, Ömer Hayri Konar, Veysi Aktaş and Hamili Yıldırım have not been allowed even a single visit since March 2015, the date when they had been transferred to İmralı,” he said.
“Our relatives’ contacts with the outside world have been completely cut off as they have been denied communication by phone, mail, fax and other means as well. (…) Since 2011, namely in over 10 years, Abdullah Öcalan has been able to have lawyer visits on only five occasions and merely in the year 2019. And these visits could be made only as a consequence of protests, including hunger strikes.
“It is apparent that this absolute isolation in İmralı island is related to Abdullah Öcalan’s efforts for peace and a democratic solution to the ‘Kurdish question.’ Öcalan makes it clear in every possible contact he has with the outside world that he is striving for a democratic solution and peace. For this reason, the isolation also targets a democratic solution and peace.”
Ömer Öcalan ended his announcement with an appeal to the authorities: “We call for an end to lawlessness and arbitrary treatment in İmralı prison and want our relatives to be granted their legal rights.”
Abdullah Öcalan has been denied his basic right to family and lawyer visits in İmralı for 22 years, with only a few exceptions being allowed, despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights stating that Turkey had violated the rights of Öcalan due to the inhumane conditions that arose from his severe solitary confinement.
Although the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) had released a report in 2018 “calling upon the Turkish authorities to make sure that all prisoners at Imralı Prison are able to receive visits from their relatives and lawyers,” no implementation has yet been made by the Turkish authorities.