An international delegation of 36 people from various countries have arrived in Turkey ahead of the International Forum against Isolation, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Wednesday.
The delegation is mostly made up of lawyers, with MPs and political party representatives joining them. There are also journalists and academics in the delegation. Members are from Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa.
As a group of civil society representatives who stand against jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s absolute incommunicado state in the İmralı Island Prison in northwest Turkey, the delegation will be holding meetings with various professional and human rights organisations before the forum scheduled for 28 January.
Members of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Law and Human Rights Commission will join the delegation in their visits in three major cities in Turkey, capital Ankara, megacity Istanbul and Diyarbakır (Amed), the largest Kurdish-majority province in the country.
In Ankara, the delegation will meet with the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), whose chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı is facing trial for terrorism over her comments on Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. They will also meet with the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV).
The Istanbul leg starts with a visit to the Asrın Law Office, Öcalan’s lawyers since his capture in 1999, and continues with meetings with other legal groups.
In Diyarbakır, the delegation will meet with the Peace Mothers, a civilian initiative of women against Turkey waging wars, and the Med Tuhad-Fed, the federation of associations for legal support and solidarity for the families of prisoners. The day’s visits begin with a meeting with the families of the İmralı prisoners.
Abdullah Öcalan has been serving a life sentence in the İmralı Prison on a remote island in northwest Turkey since his capture and trial in 1999, when he was sentenced to death on charges of treason and terrorism. When Turkey removed the death penalty from the books as part of European Union accession reforms, his sentence was commuted to what Turkish law refers to as aggravated life sentence, where convicts have fewer rights than other prisoners and cannot ask for release on parole.
Öcalan spent much of the past 24 years as the sole inmate in the island prison, under strict isolation from the outside world. Several prisoners were sent to join the PKK leader in serving life sentences in İmralı over the years, with the current group of high-level PKK members, Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş and Ömer Hayri Konar, arriving in 2015. Since their arrival, they have also been subjected to the same level of isolation as Öcalan, only being able to meet with their lawyers when Turkish authorities allowed Öcalan’s to access the prison.
None of the İmralı prisoners have been able to contact the outside world since March 2021, when Öcalan had an interrupted phone call with his brother. The previous contact was in 2019, when Öcalan’s lawyers were granted five meetings in the course of the year following months of hunger strikes throughout Turkey’s prisons.