Håkan Svenneling, Swedish Member of Parliament and spokesperson on foreign affairs for the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet), has asked the country’s Foreign Minister, Tobias Billström, whether he intends to take any steps in his bilateral contacts with the Turkish authorities regarding the prolonged incommunicado detention of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.
In a written parliamentary question on Thursday, Svenneling raised serious concerns about what he called repeated human rights violations and highlighted Turkey’s dismal ranking at the bottom of the World Justice Project’s list measuring compliance with basic human rights. He emphasised the country’s poor administration of justice, citing arbitrary arrests, summary trials and ill-treatment of prisoners in Turkish prisons.
The Left Party representative referred to a visit by a delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to the high-security İmralı Prison Island, where Öcalan is imprisoned, in May 2019. Following the visit, the CPT had criticised Turkey’s treatment of Öcalan and three other prisoners on the island, citing the limited contact between the inmates and the restricted communication with the outside world. Family members and lawyers have faced significant difficulties in visiting prisoners, with Öcalan meeting his lawyers for the first time since 2011 shortly before the delegation’s visit.
The last time Öcalan and the three other prisoners were able to meet with their lawyers was on 7 August 2019. Since then, all requests for legal meetings have been denied.
Svenneling expressed concern about Öcalan’s prolonged and severe isolation, citing the CPT’s 2019 call for Turkey to take measures to reduce the isolation of prisoners. The MP cited reports by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), including a recent one in which an appeal by Öcalan’s lawyers to visit him in prison remained unanswered as of 28 November 2023.
Billström is expected to respond by 4 January 2024.
The Swedish Left Party MP has previously expressed his disappointment at Sweden’s apparent cooperation with Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish dissent and its perceived prioritisation of NATO membership.
Svenneling is also openly opposed to the labelling and criminalisation of the Kurdish struggle and has participated in initiatives to decriminalise the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and to explore ways to find a peaceful and political solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey, which he discussed in an earlier interview with Medya News.