Kurdish politicians from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called on Turkey to “open the gates of İmralı Island Prison” on the second day of the sit-in held in front of Turkey’s Justice Ministry to protest the prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkish police prevented the MPs reading a press statement, and did not allow journalists to enter the street where the sit-in occurred and blocked the entrances to the Ministry.
The isolation behind bars and the police’s treatment of journalists are connected, HDP Ağrı (Agirî) MP Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir said. “We will find ways to make our voices heard by people, but we do not accept censorship of the press,” she said as the police blockaded the reporters.
Democratisation in Turkey depends on the resolution of the Kurdish issue, the MPs said, calling on the Turkish government to “stop committing crimes”.
Öcalan has been serving a life sentence in the İmralı Island Prison in Turkey’s northwest since 1999. Over the years, there have been brief periods when he was able to regularly meet with his family and lawyers, however, he has been held in absolute incommunicado status since an interrupted phone call with his brother in March 2021.
Prison authorities continue to issue months-long bans on Öcalan citing disciplinary issues, effectively taking away the PKK leader’s right to representation and defence. His lawyers argue that the disciplinary penalties that prevent attorney visits constitute violations of Öcalan’s right to legal representation, as recognised in both domestic law and the European Convention on Human Rights.