Lawyer Bilmez: The Ministry of Justice is lying

Lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez said that Abdullah Öcalan is in total isolation and that the fact that the Turkish Ministry of Justice denies this shows the seriousness of the situation and is reminiscent of Goebbels' methods.

Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan has been on the Turkish prison island of Imrali since 1999 and is completely isolated from the outside world. Since March 2021, there has been no sign of life from him and his three fellow prisoners, Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş. The ban on visits applies to lawyers and close family members of the four prisoners and also excludes written or telephone communication.

In response to a question from the DEM parliamentary group to the parliamentary human rights committee, the department of the Turkish Ministry of Justice responsible for prisons replied that the prisoners in the high-security Imrali prison can use all legal rights and therefore the term "isolation" is not applicable. As it emerged at the beginning of the week, two days before this response, a three-month ban on visits was given to the four prisoners as a "disciplinary punishment".

In light of this development, lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez from the Istanbul law office Asrin told ANF that the Ministry of Justice is "officially lying. The legal team was last able to visit Abdullah Öcalan in August 2019. Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş have never been able to speak to their legal representation since their transfer to Imrali in 2015. The ban on visits to Imrali by lawyers flagrantly violates the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), updated in 2015, the recommendations of the Anti-Torture Committee of the Council of Europe (CPT) and the Turkish Enforcement Act No. 5275."

Goebbels method: tell a lie a thousand times

For Bilmez, the Turkish Justice Ministry's claim that there is no isolation on Imrali is "almost an insult to the public. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers of the Justice Ministry is officially lying," the lawyer said. This practice is directly related to the way the AKP has ruled the country for twenty years: "If you tell a lie a thousand times, society begins to believe what you say. They're really using this Goebbels method, and unfortunately, the lie is being believed. We respond to these lies and have always made statements about them. If the Ministry of Justice claims that there is no isolation on Imrali, then it should explain how often the lawyers met with their clients."

No news from Imrali

Veysi Aktaş, one of the four prisoners, should have been released at the end of April. His legal team was not even informed that his term of imprisonment had been extended by a year. Explaining that Aktaş, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, should have been released on parole according to the law after serving 30 years, Bilmez said: "He was not released, the term of execution was extended by another year by the decision of the Prison Management and Supervision Committee. We only found out about this situation in a phone call with the prison administration. Obviously, the decision to extend his detention is a continuation of the policy of blocking news from Imrali. It is an attempt to prevent any news about Mr Öcalan. This situation goes beyond isolation and the government wants to maintain it."

Illegal and disrespectful

Lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez further said that the ban on visits is justified and extended by regularly imposed "disciplinary punishments". This method systematically conceals the isolation and there is no legal explanation for it, said the lawyer, adding: "None of these decisions are legal. But to claim that there is no isolation in Imrali despite the ban on visits is an insult, both to us lawyers and the public, and it is disrespectful."

Messages from Öcalan should be suppressed

The last contact with Abdullah Öcalan was a telephone conversation on 25 March 2021, which was achieved thanks to the protests. However, the call was interrupted after a few minutes for unknown reasons.

Bilmez recalled that Öcalan requested contact with his defenders during his last phone call with his brother. "Obviously they want to prevent our client Öcalan’s voice from reaching the outside world. This has been the case for a long time; it is as if the Kurdish question does not exist. They want to solve the Kurdish question with a policy of violence, and for this reason they are isolating Mr. Öcalan. This is very clear: they don't want to hear anything from Imrali because it would be a voice for a solution. And the government doesn’t want that."

Without a solution to the Kurdish question, there can be no democratization

For Bilmez, the government's blatant lies indicate the seriousness of the situation. The lawyer demanded that decisive action be taken against the isolation and the lies based on it. Not just a certain group of people, but the entire opposition must take a stand. Passivity is grist for the state's mill and isolation is thereby legitimized. Bilmez emphasized that defusing the political situation would only be possible with a solution to the Kurdish question and thus with an end to Imrali's isolation. He said: "If there is to be dialogue in Turkey and if the government is to steer towards democracy, the policy on Imrali will be the litmus paper."

Lawyer Bilmez said: "Anyone who still thinks today that the isolation or the unresolved Kurdish question does not concern them, should have thought abouth this better a long time ago. Because it is an issue that touches everyone. If there is really to be a change in this country, if there is to be a dialogue process with the government, then the Kurdish question and isolation should also be on the agenda. I say this especially to the main opposition. It should address isolation and not turn a blind eye to it. It shouldn't pretend isolation doesn't exist. Otherwise, it will not be a real improvement, but only an economic softening of the situation."