Turkish prisoners asked if they 'like PKK leader,' follow Islam to qualify for early release

The administration of an İzmir prison has been asking inmates whether they "like" jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan to determine their eligibility for a reduction of their sentences based on "good behavior," the Human Rights Association (İHD) said. Inmates were also asked other arbitrary questions like whether they were Muslims and which prophet they followed.

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Inmates at İzmir's Şakran Prison were asked arbitrary questions such as whether they "liked" Kurdish Workers' Party's (PKK) imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan and which prophet they followed in interviews to determine whether they were eligible for sentence reductions, Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Aug. 24. 

Inmates' rights to sentence reductions under pandemic probation regulations have been abused by the enforcement of arbitrary criteria, Human Rights Association (İHD)'s İzmir spokesperson Ahmet Çiçek said. 

Each prison forms a council to evaluate inmates' eligibility for sentence reductions based on good behavior, which then conducts interviews with inmates to determine whether they are suitable, the spokesman noted. 

"These councils reportedly asked inmates unreasonable questions like 'Do you like Abdullah Öcalan? Are you part of [the PKK]? Who is your prophet? Are you Muslim?'" Çiçek said, based on letters they received from prisoners. 

Councils can delay inmates' release for as long as eight months based on inmates' answers to the questions, Çiçek noted, adding that the government conducts illegal practices against political prisoners.

Noting the isolation imposed on Öcalan for years, Çiçek said that the requests of the attorneys of the jailed PKK leader for a meeting should be approved as soon as possible. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also allowed prison administrations to cover up rights violations against inmates, the spokesperson said, noting that family visitations have been heavily limited.