Öcalan row erupts over ‘conjugal visit’ bid

Öcalan row erupts over ‘conjugal visit’ bid

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Öcalan row erupts over ‘conjugal visit’ bid

PM Erdoğan announced on Sept 27 preparations of a new legal procedure to allow inmates to be alone with their spouses for a day in a room, in a televised interview. Hürriyet photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement regarding preparations of a new legal procedure to allow inmates “to be alone with their spouses for a day in a room” has led to a debate suggesting the possible marriage of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. Non-governmental organizations, meanwhile, have expressed support for the idea.

“[Erdoğan] presents the suggestion that inmates may meet their spouses outside of prison like its good news. Maybe soon they will find a match for İmralı too. One would have thought that the whole country was waiting for such a practice, and the government presents it as a reform,” Deputy Chair of the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) parliamentary group, Oktay Vural, said on Sept. 28. “İmralı” refers to Öcalan, whose prison is located on İmralı Island.

Erdoğan’s controversial remarks came after one of the articles in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) verdicts stirred controversy, ruling that one of the defendants would not be able to conduct any legal proceedings as a “husband or a father.”

Speaking to private broadcaster NTV on Sept. 27, Erdoğan said: “revoking rights as a husband or father is not in question … Spouses will be able to meet outside of prison in rooms specially prepared, let’s say for 24 hours. There is no such a practice in Turkey now, so we will start it for the first time ... This will be accessible even for inmates serving life sentences.”

The General Directorate of Penal Affairs announced yesterday that inmates who broke disciplinary rules would not be able to access the right to conjugal visits in the prisons’ management units.

Modern but risky
The proposal for conjugal visits has been backed by non-governmental organizations. However, the head of the non-governmental the Criminal Justice Administration, Zafer Kıraç, said conditions regarding the new practice needed to be clarified by the Justice Ministry.Kıraç said society should be convinced of the social benefits of the new practice, as otherwise it may consider conjugal visits to be “a gift to criminals.”

“If sexuality increases, society could refuse to accept it. Family members should be able to stay with the prisoner in the same place, but when spouses need special time they could be left alone. This is the practice in a number of other countries,” he told the Daily News on Sept. 28. In France couples can use a flat on the same campus, while in Belgium a cabin is provided in prisons, Kıraç said. Spain, meanwhile, has some of the most liberal regulations in the world, with inmates having the right to see their friends every month in special places, without even being married.

According to statistics from the Justice Ministry, 50,000 of 120,000 total inmates of Turkish prisons are married. k HDN