Severing all ties a prisoner has with the outside world is equal to a death sentence spread out over time, as “human beings are social animals”, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit said in the party’s daily vigil outside the Turkish parliament.
“The İmralı Island Prison has been under a special regime since 15 February 1999, and Abdullah Öcalan has been under absolute isolation there. This isolation gets stricter occasionally,” Koçyiğit said. “We know for more than 21 months nobody from the public or his family or his lawyers have heard from Öcalan.”
The Turkish Justice Ministry “used to cite the excuse of a boat malfunction” to reject weekly appeals by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder’s family and lawyers, the HDP MP said. “Now they are at such a point that they don’t feel the need to even present excuses. This government turns deaf and blind until the clock runs out.”
HDP has been protesting the incommunicado status Öcalan has been held under in the İmralı Prison, arguing input from the PKK leader was crucial for democracy and peace in the country.
Öcalan was sentenced to death on treason and terrorism charges in 1999, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison when Turkey removed capital punishment from the books as part of its European Union compatibility reforms. The life sentence is issued without option for parole, and is called aggravated life sentence in Turkish law.
However, what is currently happening in İmralı “cannot be considered aggravated life imprisonment”, Koçyiğit said. “All persons have the right to meet with their family and lawyers. The Constitution says everybody is equal before the law. So we ask: What judicial and legal regime is in force to separate Ömer Hayri Konar, Veysi Aktaş, Hamili Yıldırım and Abdullah Öcalan from all other prisoners?”
The Kurdish issue has continued for more than a century, with the last four decades spent in armed conflict, the MP said.
“If we want to crack open a door towards peace and a solution, if we want to resolve the problem via a dignified and just peace, the interlocutors are not unknown. The state should meet with them, and take steps towards a solution at once.”
“We do not accept this isolation. We do not accept that these four political prisoners are not heard from at all and cannot be communicated with. Accepting this injustice means any and all citizens in this country could have their rights usurped and pushed back in line with the government’s interests. This means all of our rights could be suspended, which we do not accept,” she continued.
There are growing concerns on Öcalan’s health and even whether he is alive, Koçyiğit said. “Mr Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is responsible for alleviating concerns of the Kurdish people.”
The HDP, a coalition of left-wing and pro-Kurdish political currents in the country and the third largest voting bloc, will continue the vigil “until there is a meeting with Öcalan and this injustice is ended”, the MPs said.