Ankara retains jailed Kurdish chief from seeing legal professionals, household

Turkish authorities have prevented jailed Kurdish chief Abdullah Ocalan from seeing his legal professionals and members of the family for the previous two years on the grounds of consecutive “disciplinary punishments.” Ocalan, who since 1999 has been serving a life sentence on the Imrali jail island off the coast of Istanbul, was most just lately barred from exterior contact reportedly as a result of he chatted together with his fellow inmates in the course of the bodily train interval. According to Kurdish politicians, the ban displays Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s drift away from the democratic course of, which aimed to resolve Turkey’s decadeslong Kurdish downside through peaceable means.

Ocalan’s isolation has come into public focus following the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers assembly on Dec. 2, throughout which the European human rights watchdog determined to provoke infringement proceedings in opposition to Turkey over the detention for over 4 years of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala. During the assembly, the European physique additionally requested Ankara for info on what steps had been taken to place into place a mechanism to assessment life sentences in Turkey. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights dominated that sentences of life imprisonment with no probability for parole shouldn’t be became a torture mechanism, calling on Ankara to place into place a assessment mechanism for convicts serving lifelong sentences. 

Ibrahim Bilmez, one among Ocalan’s legal professionals, stated to Al-Monitor of the January 2022 deadline set by the Council of Europe for the knowledge request, “Turkey ought to instantly do one thing on this challenge.”

While Ocalan’s release from prison appears out of question for now, his treatment there continues to draw criticism and his family members worry about his well being. 

The Imrali prison island where Ocalan is serving his sentence on terror and treason charges hosted several figures — from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers to high-level bureaucrats — until 2014 when peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) collapsed.

Ocalan’s lawyers were granted access to him for the first time in several years in 2019 following a mass hunger strike involving thousands of people, from HDP officials to inmates in Turkish prisons. Ocalan was allowed to ​​hold five separate meetings with his lawyers and a meeting with his brother. In a statement he relayed through his lawyers, Ocalan called on the strikers not to take their actions to a point that threatened their health or resulted in death. 

Yet, following these meetings, isolation resumed and Ocalan was once again banned from meeting with his lawyers, relatives and fellow inmates on the prison island. The only exception to the ban was a three-minute phone call he made on March 3, 2020.

Since then, no one has spoken to or met with Ocalan. Bilmez said their latest request to visit him last week was declined by the Justice Ministry on the grounds of a “disciplinary punishment” he received in October.

“According to this punishment, he was banned from both lawyer and family visits. We have been constantly facing disciplinary punishments over the past two years,” Bilmez said. 

Ocalan’s fellow convicts on the prison island face similar treatment. Omer Hayri Konar, who is serving a life sentence, is one of them. His brother, Emin, said he had last seen Omer two years ago.

“When we submitted a [visit] request with lawyers, we coincidentally learned that they had received disciplinary punishment,” Emin said, referring to his brother and three other inmates including Ocalan. According to Emin, the reason for the punishment was inmates chatting with each other during physical exercise.

Many believe the reasoning behind the bans on visits is far from convincing. 

“It seems unrealistic that these four people held in Imrali are constantly receiving disciplinary punishments,” Bilmez stated.

Meanwhile, some worldwide rights teams proceed to name on Ankara to enhance Ocalan’s therapy. Last 12 months, ​​the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated the restrictions on Ocalan and different convicts’ conferences with their legal professionals and members of the family had been “unacceptable.” In a report revealed after a CPT delegation’s go to to the jail in 2019, the CPT referred to as on Ankara to ease the solitary confinement measures positioned on Ocalan and grant him extra ​​exterior contact.

Emin Konar and Omer Ocalan, the Kurdish chief’s nephew and an HDP lawmaker, held a joint press convention at parliament in Ankara final week, calling on the Justice Ministry to carry the ban on visits, however to no avail.

According to Omer Ocalan, the federal government has suspended all legal guidelines relating to prisoners’ rights on the Imrali jail island and this lawlessness was prolonged to the skin of jail, turning into a typical authorities apply in opposition to Kurdish motion. 

Bilmez is looking on all civic teams to talk up in opposition to the scenario. He and Ocalan’s different legal professionals final week submitted a request to the Bar Association in Diyarbakir, the most important metropolis within the Kurdish-majority southeast, to take motion to finish Ocalan’s isolation. 

Diyarbakir Bar Association chair Nahit Eren stated inmates’ rights to satisfy their members of the family and legal professionals are assured beneath worldwide regulation. Pointing out family’ considerations concerning the inmates’ properly being, Eren stated the Justice Ministry wants to instantly grant entry to Imrali. He stated an official request by the Bar Association for entry has gone unanswered.

Unheeded calls by quite a few worldwide and native our bodies and civic teams point out that the scenario is an consequence of political preferences somewhat than authorized technicalities.

Tayip Temel, HDP deputy co-chair, concurs. “The major reason for the isolation is Erdogan’s drift away from the democratic settlement perspective,” he advised Al-Monitor. He stated that at any time when the federal government drifts away from democratic means to settle the Kurdish downside, Ocalan’s isolation grows.

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