The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) confirmed on Tuesday that a delegation had met with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan during their visit to İmralı prison island in Turkey in September 2022.
The CPT delegation’s engagement with the imprisoned PKK leader and the three other detainees was disclosed during a meeting in Strasbourg between CPT officials and representatives of the Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan Initiative from North and East Syria.
Two unnamed CPT officials, one of whom works on the Turkey desk of the CPT, and one of whom was on the delegation to İmralı, met with a spokesperson for the initiative, Îdrîs Saîd, as well as North and East Syria Lawyers’ Union representative Xanim Ayo and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Representative to the Council of Europe Faik Yağızay yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.
During the meeting, Ayo presented the CPT officials with a staggering 2.6 million signatures collected from various regions in northern Syria, as well as from Damascus, Lebanon and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The signatures call for an end to the incommunicado detention of Öcalan, ongoing for two-and-a-half years to date.
The CPT officials reiterated their inability to share specific information about their interviews with Öcalan and the other detainees. This lack of transparency was attributed to Turkey’s not having authorised such disclosures. Nonetheless, the officials affirmed that the delegation had met all four detainees during their visit to İmralı and had subsequently submitted a report on the matter to the Turkish authorities.
The CPT’s confirmation lays to rest false rumours that Öcalan had declined to meet with the delegation.
Said revealed in a press statement following the meeting that the signature campaign ran from 12 January to 12 March, garnering support from diverse groups, including Kurdish, Arab, Armenian, Syriac, Assyrian and Turkmen communities, reflecting the wide-scale concern over Öcalan’s detention.
“We demanded that an immediate meeting be held between Öcalan, the CPT and Öcalan’s lawyers and family members. They told us that they had been monitoring his situation and that they would convey our demands to the authorities concerned,” said Said.
On behalf of the Lawyers’ Union and the Initiative, Ayo reiterated their determination to pursue an end to Öcalan’s absolute isolation and his eventual release.
The CPT delegation visited İmralı prison between 20 and 29 September 2022, as part of an ad hoc visit to Turkey. The purpose of the prison visit was to assess the treatment and conditions of all four detainees held at the facility, with a particular focus on communal activities and their interactions with the outside world.
The Committee submitted its detailed report on İmralı to the Turkish authorities in March, and the head of the delegation, Therese Rytter, stated that Turkey should respond to their report within six months, however, the decision on the public disclosure of the report rested with the member states, not the CPT.
Öcalan has been held in İmralı maximum security prison since his arrest in 1999, and in absolute incommunicado status since March 2021.