Families of Imrali prisoners apply to visit their relatives

The families of Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan and the other three prisoners on Imrali applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and the Imrali Prison Directorate for a meeting with their relatives.

There has been no news from Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan for 30 months and there is absolute isolation imposed on him.

Abdullah Öcalan’s brother Mehmet Öcalan and his guardian Mazlum Dinç, Ömer Hayri Konar's brother Ali Konar, Hamili Yıldırım's brother Polat Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş's sister Melihe Çetin applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to visit their relatives.

Families also applied to the Directorate of Imrali F Type High Security Closed Penal Institution through the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

Asrın Law Office, which represents Öcalan and his three fellow prisoners on the prison island of Imrali, made an application to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) two days ago regarding the developments covering 30 April 2023 and 31 July 2023.

Emphasizing that the "incommunicado" status has deepened, the application underlined that 25 requests for lawyers' visits and 12 for family visits were made in the 3-month period from 30 April to 31 July 2023, but all of them went unanswered. The lawyers also noted that the fate of the letters sent to Imralı is unknown.

Asrın Law Office said that the CPT should visit Imralı as a matter of "urgency" and listed its demands as follows:

"*A Committee's urgent visit to the Imrali Island Prison [is needed], together with the urgent public disclosure of the CPT’s report and findings regarding its last visit,

*Immediate execution and continuation of lawyer visits, and the elimination of their obstruction by unlawful court decisions,

* Carrying out and ensuring the continuity of family and guardian visits, and ending the prevention of unlawful disciplinary punishments,

*In parallel with the establishment of visiting rights, ensuring that the applicants use their routine telephone rights to call their families and relatives,

*Ensuring that all obstacles to communication with the outside and with lawyers by letter, telegraph and fax are eliminated,

*Ensuring that the actual or illegal practices related to newspapers, magazines and books are ended,

* Taking coercive measures to eliminate torture, inhuman and ill-treatment conditions and incommunicado. The application of the procedures regulated in Article 10/2 of the Convention is requested immediately."

Lawyers are requesting to meet with Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan twice a week. However, applications for visits are systematically left unanswered. In some cases, months later, lawyers are informed that disciplinary action has been taken against the Kurdish people's leader and therefore no visit can be granted.

Concerns over the situation of Öcalan increased after the Executive Council Member of the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union (KCK), Sabri Ok said in an interview on the Kurdish TV Channel Sterk TV on July 8 that threatening letters had recently been sent to Abdullah Öcalan anonymously via the Imrali prison administration.

Conditions of extraordinary isolation

The Imralı F Type High Security Closed Prison was built specifically for Abdullah Öcalan in February 1999 and has since been operated based on a special status and through special practices.

Under the so-called aggravated execution regime, Abdullah Öcalan and his fellow prisoners, Hamili Yildirim, Ömer Hayri Konar and Veysi Aktaş, have been held under conditions of extraordinary isolation for a long time, 24 years in terms of Öcalan and eight years each in terms of other inmates.

Despite all their attempts, lawyers from the Istanbul-based Asrin Law Office, which represents Abdullah Öcalan and his three fellow prisoners, have not been able to receive even a single sign of life from their clients since 25 March 2021. They could not obtain any information regarding their health status, their detention conditions, their legal situation in 2022. It has been 29 months that their clients have not been heard from in any way.

Öcalan held in a single cell since 1999

According to the “2022 Annual Assessment Report on Rights Violations and the Current Conditions in Imrali Island Prison” released by Asrın Law Office on 15 February 2023, Abdullah Öcalan has been held in a single cell in İmralı Island Prison since 15 February 1999. For the first ten years, he was the only prisoner in the island prison. In November 2009, new cells were added to the prison and five other prisoners were brought in. Nevertheless, Öcalan continued to be kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends.

Until 2011, Öcalan’s right to see his lawyers was limited to one hour one day a week, but in fact, he was constantly prevented from availing himself of this limited right, with the authorities alleging the pretext of “adverse weather conditions” or a “technical defect” of the coaster going to the island. In the twelve years since 27 July 2011, he has only been able to see his lawyer five times, between May and August 2019. The last of these five meetings took place on 7 August 2019.

Since 2014, Öcalan has received five visits from family members. His brother’s visit to the prison on 3 March 2020 marks Öcalan’s last direct contact with his family. Also, in 24 years, he communicated with the outside world via telephone on only two occasions (on 27 April 2020 and 25 March 2021). During the last phone call on 25 March 2021, the connection was lost after only two minutes and could not be restored. Öcalan has not been heard from since.