Council of Europe insists Turkey permit lawyers to visit Öcalan
In this file photo, Öcalan is seen with BDP deputies on İmralı island. DHA PhotoA delegation from the Council of Europe has strongly encouraged Turkey to remove obstacles preventing lawyers from meeting with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while also recommending an improvement in his prison standards.
“Ensuring that prisoners have adequate means of contact with the outside world is a key element of their overall protection against ill-treatment. In this regard, it is a matter of grave concern that Abdullah Öcalan has not been able to receive visits from his lawyers since July 27, 2011,” said a report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), a monitoring mechanism of the Council of Europe.
The report was based on a CPT delegation’s visit to Turkey from Jan. 16 to 172013 and was released on March 13, following the Turkish government’s authorization. The CPT published both its report and the Turkish government’s response to this report on its website, www.cpt.coe.int, on March 13.
The report from Jean-Pierre Restellini, acting second vice president of the CPT; Andres Magnusson and Michael Neurauter, head of a division in the CPT’s Secretariat, mainly focused on a visit to the İmralı F-Type High Security Closed Prison where Öcalan is jailed.
The delegation had a face-to-face meeting with Öcalan during their visit, Turkish officials, speaking with the Hürriyet Daily News, confirmed March 13.
“It transpired that a policy decision had been taken by the Turkish government to prevent Abdullah Öcalan, for the time being at least, from having meetings with his lawyers, since he was considered to have repeatedly abused his right of access to a lawyer. The CPT was also informed that more than 35 lawyers who had visited Abdullah Öcalan in recent years had been remanded in custody in November 2011 and were facing trial inter alia for having transmitted illicit messages to a terrorist organization,” the report said.
“In 2012, Abdullah Öcalan at some point indicated that he did not wish to receive visits from his lawyers, allegedly in order to protect them against any subsequent prosecution. That said, during the visit, Abdullah Öcalan indicated to the delegation that he would like to have consultations with his lawyers,” it said.
The committee noted that during their February 2013 meeting with then-Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, the minister “affirmed that the Turkish government was actively working on a solution to the problem of access to a lawyer.”
“The CPT calls upon the Turkish authorities to take the necessary steps – without any further delay – to ensure that all prisoners at İmralı Prison are able, if they so wish, to receive visits from a lawyer,” the report said.
Response from Turkish government
Vis-à-vis the CPT’s recommendations, the Turkish government drafted a response on June 7, 2013. This response was also made public on March 2014.
“There are no restrictions on the prisoners’ meeting their lawyers within the context of the relevant legislation unless compelling reasons exist such as adverse weather conditions and technical problems that may arise in the vessel,” the government said, without citing any legal justification for the situation regarding lawyers.
In November 2012, hundreds of prisoners in Turkey, demanding better conditions for Öcalan and more use of the Kurdish language in public life, ended a 68-day hunger strike after Öcalan urged them to do so. Öcalan’s message was conveyed to the public by his brother, Mehmet Öcalan who said Öcalan told him that the hunger strike had “achieved its goal.”
“Without any hesitation, they should end the hunger strike,” Öcalan told his brother.
In late December 2012, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made public that intelligence agents were meeting with Öcalan, exposing a “resolution/peace” process aimed at ending the three-decade conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK in order to hopefully pave the way for the resolution of the century-old Kurdish issue.
On Jan. 3, 2013, the first parliamentary visit was paid to Öcalan by independent deputy Ahmet Türk and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Batman deputy Ayla Akat Ata and was made public as part of the peace process.
The CPT’s visit to the prison island took place after the developments listed above.