Abdullah Öcalan, the founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been held in İmralı F High-Security Prison since 1999. He has been kept in isolation for years, serving aggravated life imprisonment.
Öcalan was 29 when he, and 21 others, founded the PKK in 1978. For almost 20 years he ran the PKK from northern Syria. After being forced to leave Syria, he was abducted in Kenya by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT), with the support of the CIA, and was charged with treason and separatism. Öcalan has written over forty books, four of them from prison, and is a central figure for the Kurdish revolutionary movement.
Ban on Visits
From 2011 to 2019, Öcalan’s lawyers were prohibited from meeting with him. After numerous hunger strikes and death fasts by supporters, he was allowed to meet his lawyers on 2 May 2019. Another four meetings were held that same year, but he has been again prohibited from meeting his lawyers since 7 August 2019.
Öcalan is not allowed to meet with family members either. The last time he met with them was 4 March, following a twenty-minute phone call on 27 April. This was the first time that he was able to make a phone call to his family since his imprisonment.
CPT’s latest report: Restrictions are not Acceptable
Conditions in İmralı Island have been criticised by various human rights organisations. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided that Turkey’s aggravated life sentence violates the European Convention on Human Rights. In regard to Öcalan’s conditions of imprisonment and his level of isolation, Turkey is violating the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, which is under Article 3 of the European Convention.
Since their last visit to İmralı Prison, in 2019, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has published a report stating that there are no improvements to the conditions of the prisoners.
The report says:
“They were still only allowed to associate all together for six hours per week, as well as in pairs for an additional three hours per week, and association during daily outdoor exercise remained prohibited. As a result, all prisoners were being held in solitary confinement for most of the time (i.e. 159 hours out of 168 hours per week, including 24 hours per day at weekends). In the Committee’s view, such a state of affairs is not acceptable.”
Havin Güneşer, from the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign, told Medya TV News:
“CPT can not act freely from governments, which is sad. Eight times CPT visited İmralı since 1999 and released reports, but not many things have changed so far.”
Lawyers from Asrın Law Bureau, who are representing Öcalan and three other PKK prisoners in İmralı, have filed an application with ECHR demanding restrictions be lifted from the prisoners.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies have submitted a motion to parliament concerning the CPT report and the conditions in prison in Turkey.
Öcalan’s lawyers have again applied to Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to meet with their clients. And his family, and the families of other prisoners in İmralı, again applied to visit on 7 August.