Kurdish politicans from the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) launched a new sit-in on Wednesday in front of Turkey’s Justice Ministry to protest the prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Mezopotamya Agency reported.
The protest comes after the HDP voted to bring to attention the absolute incommunicado state Öcalan is held under. The PKK leader has been serving a life sentence in the İmralı Prison on the northwestern Turkish island of the same name since 1999, and has not been heard from at all since March 2021 in an interrupted call with his brother. The last time his lawyers had contact with Öcalan was in 2019.
Among the protesters are DTK Co-chair Berdan Öztürk, and HDP MPs Ömer Öcalan, Feleknas Uca, Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir, Şevin Coşkun, Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, Sezai Temelli, Abdullah Koç, Nuran İmir, Hüseyin Kaçmaz and Erdal Aydemir.
The group held up signs that read “Isolation is a crime against humanity” and “Let lawyers into İmralı Prison”. Police units stationed near the ministry told the MPs to take the signs down, which they refused.
The complete lack of communication with Öcalan has given rise to serious concerns over the PKK leader’s health and safety, Öztürk told reporters at the sit-in.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) did not provide any information on Öcalan’s condition either, Öztürk said, despite its September visit to the island prison built specifically to house Öcalan.
The isolation of Öcalan is unlawful, and Turkey is bound by international conventions that classify it as torture and a crime against humanity.
The brief period when Öcalan was able to meet with his lawyers and various groups of politicians was a “hopeful” time for both social peace and Turkey’s future, Öztürk said.
Protests will continue until the isolation ends, he said, and quoting legendary commander Hannibal, concluded, “We shall either find a way or make one.”