Jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan will not be allowed any conditional release, lawyers representing the Republic of Turkey told the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a submission on 26 August.
A 2014 ruling by the ECHR found Öcalan and three other prisoners’ sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of release violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment.
The 2014 decision paved the way for the bar association in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) province to submit five applications to the ECHR, calling on Turkey to ease the conditions of Öcalan’s imprisonment, including one challenging the ‘aggravated life sentence’ which precludes any possibility of release.
The so-called aggravated life sentence replaced the death sentence in Turkish law as part of the country’s efforts to comply with the European Union’s Copenhagen criteria for accession, coinciding with Öcalan’s arrest in 1999 and subsequent trial.
After the ECHR requested a defence to these applications, Turkey’s representatives submitted a document stating that, while conditional release is possible “as a rule” for convicts sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, “certain offences are exempted from this possibility”.
The Turkish submission also said the European court had previously been satisfied with the conditions of Öcalan’s detention, adding that other issues raised in the bar association’s applications had been addressed in a human rights action plan which Turkey submitted to the ECHR last year.
Reporting on the 26 August submission, Mezopotamya news agency said the Turkish stance that Öcalan has no prospect of release under any circumstances deprived the Kurdish leader of his “right to hope”, a legal concept stating that all prisoners should have the possibility of redemption regardless of their crimes.
Öcalan is considered by many to be the leader of the global Kurdish political movement for self-government. He has been held in a maximum-security prison on Turkey’s İmralı island since his capture in 1999, 14 years after the PKK launched an armed struggle for Kurdish autonomy.
Family members and legal representatives of Öcalan have made frequent applications to visit him on İmralı, but the Turkish authorities routinely deny all requests. Last week, the Kurdish leader’s brother Mehmet Öcalan and lawyer Mazlum Dinç reported that communications with Öcalan had been completely cut for 18 months.