A group of lawyers in the Kurdish-led North and East Syria have submitted an appeal to the United Nations (UN), requesting access to İmralı Island Prison in Turkey, where Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been held in complete isolation without communication for the past 28 months.
During press statements on Sunday in the northern cities of Qamishli (Qamişlo) and Kobani (Kobanê) in Syria, the lawyers emphasised that the Turkish government’s denial of Öcalan’s access to his legal representatives since 2019 and his family since 2021 constitutes a violation of both Turkey’s domestic laws and international legal standards.
Drawing attention to the recently resurfaced former threatening letters targeting Öcalan, the lawyers argued that these letters serve as an indication that Öcalan’s life is in danger as long as the arbitrary disciplinary measures continue, justifying his absolute isolation.
The Syrian Kurdish lawyers expressed their disappointment with the lack of response from international institutions, particularly the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), in the face of this isolation and called upon the global community to take decisive action in order to put an end to Turkey’s unlawful practices within İmrali Island Prison.
Lawyers’ appeal came amidst growing concerns over Öcalan after Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council Member Sabri Ok recently disclosed distressing details concerning threatening letters sent to him in İmralı Island Prison in the past.
One such letter stated, “We will administer a poison that will lead to your demise. Even the insects that feed on your corpse will be poisoned and perish,” according to Ok.
In 2016, Çetin Arkaş, a prisoner who was formerly held with Öcalan in İmralı Prison during the short-lived peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish government, and later transferred to another prison, revealed that Öcalan had received an anonymous threatening letter.
Öcalan has been incarcerated for 25 years, and for over two years, he has been in a state of incommunicado. Despite Öcalan’s lawyers submitting appeals for visitation twice a week for many years, most of these appeals have gone unanswered.