Asrın Law Office, which represents Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, in a written statement on Tuesday objected to their client being the subject of politicians’ speculative debates ahead of the 14 May elections, and called for an immediate end to Öcalan’s 25-month-long incommunicado state.
The statement came after pre-election debates on a suspected meeting between Öcalan and Turkish government officials, alleged to be an attempt by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to gain the crucial Kurdish vote.
Since its establishment, İmralı Island Prison has aimed to gradually wear inmates down both mentally and physically, and it has been confirmed by European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings and European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) reports that the conditions of imprisonment constitute torture, Asrın Law Office said.
The lawyers emphasised that conditions in İmralı Prison, which they describe as an isolation system, cannot be treated lightly, and recalled that Öcalan and the other three prisoners held in İmralı have been in absolute isolation for more than two years.
The lawyers have had no information about the conditions of detention or the health of their clients since 25 March 2021.
According to the statement, which provides information on conditions in İmralı Prison based on the lawyers’ knowledge prior to this date, Öcalan only had access to a single-channel radio for the first 14 years of his detention. It was only in 2013 that he was granted access to television, which is otherwise available to all prisoners in Turkey. However, as Turkey’s Prison Monitoring Board reports, the prison administration restricted television channels and daily newspapers were delivered to him 40 days late.
For ten years and nine months, Öcalan was held as the sole detainee in the island prison. And after 2009 when other detainees were sent to İmralı he was only allowed to meet with them for six hours a week, according to CPT reports from 2016 and 2019.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Pervin Buldan, who was part of the delegation that held talks with Öcalan as part of the 2013 peace process, told Tükenmez Kalem magazine about the conditions of Öcalan’s detention in İmralı prison in 2014.
Buldan and HDP’s now jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş had received permission from the Justice Ministry to visit Öcalan’s solitary confinement cell where he had spent 15 years.
“It’s 12 square metres, there’s only one step between the bed and the desk in front of it, and the toilet is inside the cell,” Budan had said. “It’s a tiny toilet. There is a kettle next to it, he makes his tea with it. The walls are full of photos. Photos of prisons sent by female comrades… Photos of Mardin (Mêrdîn), photos of Lake Van (Wan), Akdamar (Akhtamar) Island, photos of his martyred friends, Zilan, Mahsum Korkmaz, and cards from other prisons… Pictures of roses on cards… Photos of his own family. His uncle’s photo from a newspaper clipping that he pasted on the wall. A photograph of his mother from a newspaper. His books on the table…”
Buldan had stated that they came out of the cell in tears and said that such living conditions were neither politically nor morally acceptable.