Seven hundred and seventy lawyers have signed a petition that was launched on 25 May, demanding that the isolation imposed on the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan be lifted by the Turkish authorities.
Abdullah Öcalan has been imprisoned in a Turkish prison on the remote island of İmralı in the Marmara Sea since 1999 and his rights to communicate with the outside world have been severely violated ever since.
The lawyers’ petition that was organised by members of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom comes at a time when Kurdish political prisoners continue a nation-wide hunger strike across Turkey’s prisons against the isolation conditions being imposed on Abdullah Öcalan.
Ercan Kanar is among the 770 lawyers who has been a signatory of the Freedom for Öcalan petition. Kanar defined the system of law applied on Imralı Island as “enemy law”.
“This is the execution style of the law of the war with the enemy. That is, the state sees him as an enemy and not as a citizen,” he said in an interview with MA.
“The state does not want to recognise the rights of Öcalan as it would do in the case of an ordinary citizen. This is a racist and chauvinist practice.” Kanar stated that the Committee to Prevent Torture (CPT) had already detected numerous violations in Imralı Prison. “A continuous cell isolation system is applied on Imralı Island. CPT has noted such violations in their last report, even though their report failed to include important information,” he said.
Kanar pointed to the Mandela Rules and stressed that Abdullah Öcalan’s release is not only a democratic demand, but a legal necessity as determined by norms established in international law. He noted that, according to the Mandela Rules, the execution of a penalty should be impartial to all, regardless of language, race, gender or political opinion, but in Öcalan’s case, the execution is “discriminatory”.
“The practice applied for Öcalan reflects the understanding of the execution of a penalty of the enemy laws. A racist understanding. He has not been able to see his lawyers or his family members,” he said.
“Right now, the [Turkish] state violates its own execution laws, it violates the Mandela Rules, it violates the standard rules of the UN and commits a crime. Therefore, the isolation has to be ended.”
Kanar also drew attention to the “right to hope”. “The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisions and the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe emphasize that everybody has a right to hope for freedom and that aggravated life imprisonment sentences have to be re-evaluated,” he said.
Considering the time Öcalan has spent in Imralı Island, he emphasized, “the life imprisonment sentence until death that has been given to Öcalan has to be lifted. Until the sentence is lifted, Imralı isolation also has to be ended.”