Lawyers say unable to communicate with jailed PKK leader Öcalan for last two years

A lawyer of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has said that they have not received any news from their client for the last two years and that they are worried about his life.

Ferhat Yaşar / Gazete Duvar 

A lawyer of the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has said that they are unable to contact their client for the last two years and fear for his life.

Lawyer İbrahim Bilmez made the comments on March 26 during the symposium “Right of Equality and Hope in Execution of Sentence” held by the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and Solidarity with Captives Initiative (TDİ).

İHD Istanbul branch’s head Gülseren Yoleri held the opening speech in the symposium, saying that 8,443 rights violations occurred in only the Marmara region in 2022. She said that prison wards were overly crowded, with prisoners having problems in access to clean water and hygienic materials which could lead to the risk of contagious diseases.

Öcalan’s lawyer Bilmez also held a speech at the symposium with the theme of “İmralı Island Prison Implementations, in Violation of Principle of Equality.”

Öcalan was arrested in 1999 and is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island located in the south of the Sea of Marmara. Along with Öcalan, there are three others PKK inmates on the island. Since 1999, Öcalan’s lawyers and Kurds have drawn attention to isolation conditions authorities have imposed on the inmates, such as restricting lawyer and family visitations.

“İmralı prison is not within the framework of the Turkish legal system. It is also not within the framework of the world legal system. It does not fit any type. For example, if you are jailed in Turkey, your lawyer can visit you every day. But on İmralı, this is not the case. There is only one day of visitation, that is Thursday. But that is allowed only once a year. And right now, that is not allowed,” lawyer Bilmez said.

The lawyer said that the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) had sent the Turkish government the report of its last visit to the island and “that report is now at the mercy of Turkey.” A team from the CPT had gone to İmralı Island during their visit to Turkey between Sept. 20-29, 2022.

“We are unable to receive news from our client for the last two years. Maybe they are not alive. The state tells us that they are alive, but we are not trusting the state. We are worried. This is an issue that concerns all legal experts,” lawyer Bilmez further said.  

The last time Öcalan was allowed to meet with his lawyers was on Aug. 7, 2019. Since then, lawyers have filed more than a hundred petitions but their demands have remained unanswered by the Justice Ministry.

(English version by Didem Atakan)