DEM finds justice minister 'dismissive' towards demands to end Öcalan's isolation

DEM Party representatives stated that Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç was "dismissive" towards their and the Saturday Mothers' demands during a meeting protesters requested to end the isolation imposed on the outlawed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan at the İmralı Prison.

Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar

Deputies Newroz Uysal Aslan and Dilan Kunt from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party met with Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç along with the Peace Mothers. The social justice group demands the fates of their forcefully disappeared relatives since the 90s, gathering weekly at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square despite years of police repression. 

For the last six weeks, families have been holding vigils in front of the Justice Ministry in the capital Ankara province to draw attention to the isolation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, demanding to meet with the minister. The requested meeting took place today, with the participation of DEM Party deputies. 

Party officials said the meeting was brief. They conveyed to the Justice Minister that the continuous and absolute isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and other prisoners in İmralı Prison had spread to other prisons. 

They reported that inmates were protesting this situation and that human rights violations in prisons had increased. The officials noted that the families were worried and had been holding justice vigils for a long time to raise awareness. The mothers attempted to make statements and meet with officials in front of the Justice Ministry every wednesday but were consistently blocked.

The officials stated that Justice Minister Tunç exhibited a dismissive attitude toward resolving the issue. "Unfortunately, the Justice Minister, seen as the address for a solution, continued to deny the existence of isolation instead of listening to complaints and criticisms. The minister's stance, distant from law and justice, in response to these extremely humanitarian demands, and his refusal to listen even to mothers seeking peace, is a clear indication of the persistent policies of deadlock," they said.

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been kept in isolation for 24 years in F Type High-Security Prison on İmralı Island in Bursa, serving a life sentence. The jailed PKK leader last had a brief phone call with his brother on March 25, 2021. Since the interrupted phone call, no information has been received from Öcalan as well as other prisoners on the island, Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş, and Ömer Hayri Konar.

On December 2023, the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission vaguely stated the DEM Party’s application to visit Öcalan could be approved “if it was deemed appropriate.”

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)