Strasbourg, France witnessed three simultaneous demonstrations on Thursday by Kurdish youth demanding information on the wellbeing of Abdullah Öcalan, as the absolute incommunicado status of the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader has now exceeded 29 months.
Activists assembled in front of the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to stage demonstrations of civil disobedience.
They distributed flyers in front of the ECHR and hung a banner reading “Freedom for Leader Apo” in front of the CPT, as ANF reported.
A small group entered the European Parliament building, where several members unfurled a banner bearing Öcalan’s image, while another gave a speech on the PKK leader’s prison conditions.
“Abdullah Öcalan has been in solitary confinement on the prison island of İmralı in Turkey,” the speaker stated. “He has not had contact with his lawyers since July 2011.”
As European Parliament security moved to remove the speaker, other activists chanted, “Bijî Serok Apo” (“Long Live Leader Apo”).
The activists concluded their protest by chanting, “Freedom for Öcalan, Peace in Kurdistan”.
Captured and brought to Turkey for trial in 1999, the PKK leader was convicted of high treason and terrorism and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished capital punishment as part of its efforts to comply with European Union accession criteria. Öcalan has been serving his life sentence on the northwestern Turkish island of İmralı ever since.
Although Turkish law mandates regular visits with family and lawyers for all prisoners, Öcalan has never been able to fully and regularly exercise these most fundamental rights during his 24 years behind bars. Sporadic contact has occurred, influenced by the overall political situation in the country. However, since the collapse of the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK in 2015, Öcalan was most recently able to have a brief meeting with his lawyers in 2019, and an interrupted phone call with his brother in 2021.
Out of 385 appeals between 2011 and 2020, permission for Öcalan’s family to meet with him was granted only 29 times.