Branches of the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD) held simultaneous press conferences on Wednesday to protest against the isolation of the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
The isolation system in İmralı Island Prison where Öcalan has been serving an aggravated life sentence since his capture and trial in 1999 “must end”, the lawyers said, calling on democratic society to speak up against what they called “inhumane treatment” and “unprecedented unlawfulness”.
Öcalan has not been able to communicate with the outside world in any way for more than 30 months. His last contact with family was a phone call with his brother in March 2021, and he last spoke with his lawyers in 2019. There are three other high-ranking PKK members in the same prison, though they are held in separate cells in the specially constructed building.
“Lawyers who have clients in this prison are not only unable to offer them legal assistance relating to court cases they are a party to, but they also have no knowledge of the health status of their clients due to the complete inability to communicate, by phone call or letter or in any way at all”, the lawyers said in their simultaneous statement.
According to the Association, the reason for İmralı prisoners facing such severe isolation is their political identity as Kurds.
Although the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has documented unlawful practices in the prison in various reports and advised Turkey on how to improve, Ankara “has taken this as a challenge and intensified the isolation in İmralı, making the prison an inaccessible place from which no information can get out”, the lawyers said.
According to the Association’s statement, after an application for an injunction by Öcalan’s lawyers in 2022, the UN Human Rights Committee said in September of that year that Öcalan should be granted immediate and unrestricted access to his lawyers. “However, Turkey did not comply. The committee once again reminded Turkey of the injunction, but Turkey has as yet unfortunately avoided fulfilling the requirements of the decision.”
In June 2022, 775 lawyers in Turkey applied to the relevant prosecutor’s office to meet with Öcalan, followed by 350 lawyers from 22 western countries and 756 lawyers from the Middle East in general. “None of these applications have received a response,” the Association said.
“It is clear that the law has been shelved in İmralı, and political choices are what control things” the lawyers said. “Today, İmralı’s isolation has spread throughout Turkey, and security policies have replaced policies of peace and dialogue for the Kurdish issue.”
“The isolation is unlawful and unethical, and it has continued for more than 30 months. It must end at once”, they added.
The lawyers called on Ankara to comply with the UN and CPT decisions, as well as its own laws and Constitution.
The treatment of Öcalan and other İmralı prisoners has reached the level of crime against humanity, and constitutes “vindictiveness”, Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch Secretary Oya Ersoy said at the Lawyers for Freedom Istanbul press conference.
Other provinces where the Association held simultaneous press conferences include Mersin, Şanlıurfa (Riha), Van (Wan), Mardin (Mêrdîn), Gaziantep (Dîlok), İzmir, Diyarbakır (Amed) and Ankara.