The isolation system in Turkey’s northwestern İmralı Island Prison exposes imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and three other detainees to all kinds of threats, attacks, and health and life risks, said lawyer Mahmut Şakar on Saturday.
Şakar emphasised that the Turkish government manipulates the happenings within İmralı Island Prison to serve its political agenda. He held the state accountable for all occurrences within the prison, which is completely controlled by the government and inaccessible to civilians through air or land transportation.
Şakar, who is also a former lawyer of Öcalan, revealed the extensive interference by the government in the PKK leader’s life, citing Öcalan himself previously saying that the state meticulously plans every aspect of his existence, including his interactions with lawyers and even his diet.
The lawyer also recalled an incident from 2007 when experts discovered unauthorised chemicals in Öcalan’s hair, further supporting allegations of government manipulation.
Addressing the threatening letters that Öcalan had received in the past, Şakar noted that Öcalan is unable to correspond through letters due to the isolation measures. Only a few letters managed to reach him during his 24-year-long imprisonment, and among them were occasional negative and threatening messages. Şakar suggested that especially anonymous letters, lacking a return address, could potentially be a veiled warning from the Turkish government.
The issue of the past threatening letters had been brought back into the agenda by Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council member Sabri Ok on Friday. In 2016, Çetin Arkaş, a prisoner who was formerly held with Öcalan in İmralı Prison during the short-lived peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish government, and later transferred to another prison, disclosed that Öcalan had received an anonymous threatening letter.
Şakar called for an end to the “İmralı isolation system”, warning that its continuation may lead to more severe consequences beyond the receipt of threatening letters.
For the past 24 years, Öcalan has been imprisoned in İmralı Island, and for the last 28 months, he has been held in a state of absolute isolation without communication. Despite Öcalan’s lawyers consistently filing appeals for visitation twice a week over the years, the majority of these appeals have remained unanswered.
The absolute isolation at İmralı Island Prison, particularly regarding Öcalan’s treatment, raises serious concerns about human rights violations and the treatment of political prisoners in Turkey.