The Asrın Law Office, representing Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has submitted applications to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the İmralı Prison Directorate in Turkey’s northwest Bursa province, amidst concerns over the conditions and rights of inmates, particularly Öcalan, who has been incommunicado for 32 months.
Lawyers Rezan Sarıca, Raziye Öztürk, Faik Özgür Erol, and Mazlum Dinç have made this move to gain access to Öcalan, who is subjected to strict isolation at İmralı F-Type High Security Prison. Applications were also filed for meeting Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, also held in İmralı.
Access to Öcalan and the three other inmates in İmralı has consistently been restricted, with family and lawyer visitation applications denied due to “disciplinary punishments”. Between 2021 and 2023, Öcalan and the other detainees faced disciplinary measures at least five times every three months, leading to the denial of their rights to family visits. Disciplinary case details have not been disclosed, despite numerous applications and appeals.
The Bursa Enforcement Court, responding to the lawyers’ applications, confirmed that three-month disciplinary punishments were imposed on 18 August 2021, 3 February 2022, 31 May 2022, and 9 September 2022. The court’s response to an application made on 10 July 2023, revealed another three-month disciplinary punishment, the date of which was unspecified. A further application by the lawyers on 10 October 2023 was met with a reply on 13 October, indicating a new disciplinary punishment for Öcalan and the other detainees.
The court justified its non-disclosure of the disciplinary case numbers by citing concerns over potential media exposure.
In a related development, the Diyarbakir (Amed) Bar Association also applied to the Justice Ministry for permission to inspect İmralı Prison and meet the inmates. This was the third such application by the Bar Association, following earlier requests on 28 November 2021 and 14 December 2022. These requests, aimed at observing and reporting on fundamental rights and freedoms within the prison, have not received a response.
Kurdish politicians, along with several national and international initiatives, have strongly criticised the situation in İmralı, asserting that the future of Turkey’s peoples is symbolically held hostage through Abdullah Öcalan. They argue that Öcalan’s imprisonment not only reflects the denial of Kurdish existence and autonomy but also highlights broader issues of Turkey’s oppressive policies towards its minorities. Emphasising the need for solidarity with the Kurdish cause, they advocate for Öcalan’s release as essential for peace and democracy in the region, and for a democratic republic in Turkey that embraces women’s freedom and ecological life. This sentiment, especially relevant as Turkey nears its centenary, has been consistently voiced during recent ‘Freedom for Öcalan, A Political Solution for Kurdistan’ and ‘Centenary of the Treaty of Lausanne’ campaigns.
In front of the French Parliament, a protest was held by the French Democratic Kurdish Council (CDK-F) and the French Kurdish Women’s Movement (TJK-F) on Wednesday against the solitary confinement of Öcalan. Banners were displayed representing various appeals to European human rights bodies. The event symbolised 24 years of resistance in İmralı with a cage display for each year depicting human rights violations from 1999-2023. CDK-F Co-chair Şahin Polat emphasised Öcalan as the key to peace in the Middle East.