Two months after a ban on legal visits to the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan was extended, a sentencing judge has now announced a further ban of three months on family visits as well, Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Sunday.
An application by lawyers for family visits to Öcalan and three other political prisoners, all four of whom are incarcerated on the prison island of İmralı, was rejected on Thursday on grounds that a ‘fresh disciplinary action’ of three months had been issued by the prison authorities.
This marks the 11th in a series of rejections to applications for family visits in the last four years.
The last time Öcalan was able to have any contact with a family member was on 25 March 2021, when he ] only had a very brief telephone conversation with his brother Mehmet Öcalan. The conversation was abruptly cut off after only a few minutes.
Apart from this conversation, Öcalan has had no contact with his family since 2018, and the last time lawyers were able to contact Öcalan was in August 2019.
Öcalan’s lawyers called upon the Council of Europe (CoE)’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the relevant commissions of the United Nations on 15 June to urgently visit İmralı Island Prison to inspect the conditions in which Öcalan and other political prisoner are being held, as they have been subjected to severe isolation through continuous bans on lawyers’ and family visits for several years now.
The lawyers also applied earlier to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Reporter of the sub-Committee of Torture and Urgent Action Unit calling on them to intervene and report on the situation.
Rumours spread by government media
While Öcalan’s severe isolation continues, a rumour is currently being spread by the state media that the isolation may be lifted to cool ‘tensions’.
Abdülkadir Selvi of government media Hürriyet wrote on 17 June:
“It has been indicated that Öcalan may be allowed a visit by a family member in order to end the tensions created by the PKK and the HDP, who are claiming that isolation is being imposed on him.”
This rumour has already sparked another that Ankara is preparing to engage in a ‘new peace process’ for the resolution of the Kurdish question, and that Öcalan is likely to play a part in the process.
Mithat Sancar, the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said on Wednesday that these rumours were part of ‘psychological warfare’ and that the HDP ‘would not be deceived’ by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
He added: “They are trying to give the impression that Öcalan will serve the AKP’s interests once talks begin. This is not the case.”