Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş appealed to Turkey’s Justice Ministry to meet with Abdullah Öcalan, the founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), his lawyers announced.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair’s appeal came after current HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar appealed on 20 October, and was followed by appeals from HDP MPs Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, Nuran İmir and Erdal Aydemir, as well as Democratic Regions Party (DBP) co-chair Saliha Aydeniz on Wednesday.
Öcalan was arrested in 1999 and has been serving a life sentence in the İmralı Prison on the northwestern Turkish island of the same name. Demirtaş is currently behind bars at the Edirne Prison, and if approved, the meeting would occur over video link between the two prisons.
“In past years, during times when (Öcalan) could have contact with the outside world, hopes have grown for a societal peace and democratic solution in Turkey and society has been able to take a breath,” the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair’s lawyers said.
Öcalan being held under a strict isolation regime “feeds the chaotic atmosphere” in Turkey, the lawyers said, where the government seeks domestic and foreign policies of conflict and high tensions.
Demirtaş called on the ministry to end Öcalan’s isolation. “I hope and wish that this appeal I have made under the responsibility of a politician who believes in the law, justice, societal peace and resolving issues through dialogue will have a positive reception,” he said.
Nobody, including Öcalan’s lawyers and family members, has heard from Öcalan in the last 20 months. Last contact was a 2021 phone call with his brother, which was preceded by a brief visit by his lawyers in 2020.
On Thursday HDP Spokeswoman Ebru Günay called on the Justice Ministry to “urgently respond to the appeals”.
“Family and lawyer visits, guaranteed under the law, should also be enabled as soon as possible,” Günay told reporters.
“Absolute isolation policies against Mr Öcalan are an open sign that the government insists on insolubility. Through this the government continues to benefit from the crisis in the law, justice, human rights and the economy, and to insist on policies of war,” Günay said.
HDP MP Koçyiğit told Mezopotamya that the 23-year-long isolation of Öcalan was “used to design politics in Turkey”.
“The law in this country does not allow such isolation,” Koçyiğit said. “This is absolute torture, and an execution spread over time.”
Kurdish political parties and NGOs, including HDP and DBP, DTK, TJA, MED TUHAD-FED, ÖHD and the Peace Mothers, announced upcoming protest marches in Diyarbakır (Amed) and Van (Wan) against Öcalan’s isolation.
DBP Co-chair Aydeniz spoke about the European Committee for the Prohibition of Torture (CPT) visit to İmralı in late September, to which Öcalan reportedly did not attend in protest of the CPT’s continued inaction against pressures on him.
“That the CPT did not make a statement after this visit, that İmralı is a prison under CPT supervision, and that the CPT did not speak out against this isolation in an international prison shows how dire the situation is,” she said.
Aydeniz said Öcalan was a man who millions of people consider their leader, and who speaks of peace instead of war. “We state once again that Mr Abdullah Öcalan is essential for the democratisation of Turkey and the Middle East, and for building freedom.”
“Webelieve women cannot be free until Mr Öcalan is, and democracy won’t come to Turkey or the Middle East before,” she said.
The march will be held in Diyarbakır in 11 December, and 12 December in Van.