Abdullah Öcalan’s Isolation is Unlawful

Öcalan’s lawyer: With the state of emergency, all of Turkey is like İmralı

İbrahim Bilmez, one of Öcalan’s lawyers, said that the communication and visit bans weren’t as tight as today even in the September 12 period. Bilmez said all of Turkey has been turned into İmralı with the declaration of the state of emergency.

Today marks the 5th year that Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan has been denied meetings with his lawyers.

Asrın Law Office lawyers who haven’t been allowed to see their client since 27 July 2011 are concerned about Mr. Öcalan’s general situation after the coup attempt on 15 July.

Ibrahim Bilmez, one of Öcalan’s lawyers, spoke to the ANF and said millions of people followed Öcalan’s health and general situation and that concerns deepen and social tensions rise when nobody hears from him. Bilmez pointed out that the communication and visit ban issued by the Bursa Judge of Execution regarding his client and other prisoners in Imralı was arbitrary and that such a situation hadn’t occurred even during the 12 September 1980 coup.

Stating that the unlawful situation in Imralı had spread to the rest of Turkey, Bilmez said “The entire country became Imralı with the declaration of the state of emergency.”

There is speculation that Imrali was among the putschists’ targets. Were you able to get any information about Mr. Öcalan’s general situation?

I was at Sabiha Gökçen Airport when the coup attempt began. I was only able to reach a safe place at 4am in the morning and I started calling Imralı at 8am to get information about Mr. Öcalan. Because we assumed it would be impossible that the putschists who bombed the parliament and laid siege to cities had not thought about Mr. Öcalan. So, we were deeply concerned. We managed to reach the warden at noon after relentless calls. The warden said there were no problems in Imralı, Mr. Öcalan was okay, and that if there had been a problem, he wouldn’t have been able to talk to us on the phone. Of course this explanation wasn’t enough to allay concerns, and this concern isn’t just ours in any case. As you know, millions of people follow Mr. Öcalan’s health and general situation and the concern deepens and social tensions rise when they can’t hear from him. Especially after such a coup attempt, people were alarmed and concerned even more when they couldn’t get any information, which is a rightful concern.

“They are trying to legitimise isolation with decree”

Were you able to meet with his family?

Of course we did. They called us immediately after the coup attempt and tried to get information about Mr. Öcalan’s situation. We applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office repeatedly every day after the attempt, both for family and lawyers visits. But all of them were refused. Meanwhile, the Imralı Delegation contacted the Ministry of Justice to get information, but they were also only given explanations saying his health was fine. Sadly, we are not in a position where we can trust the state, the Gülen Movement’s members accused of staging the coup today had been using the state’s judiciary apparatus before: they were the judges, prosecutors, bureaucrats of this state and they constantly lied to us. Therefore, these rightful concerns need to be addressed immediately. First, the family’s and the lawyers’ legal right to meet with Mr. Öcalan must be secured. Even if this doesn’t happen, our client must be able to utilise his right to communication and phone his family or write a note in his own handwriting about his wellbeing. People are genuinely concerned, we receive phone calls constantly.

You applied to the Judge of Execution as lawyers as well. What came out of that?

We applied to the Judge of Execution one day before the state of emergency was issued. But the Bursa Judge of Execution Office issued a ban on visits and communications for our client Mr. Öcalan and other prisoners with him with lightning speed.

Weren’t these rights arbitrarily prevented in any case?

Yes, they were. So they are trying to legitimise these de facto bans by wording it with reference to the law. But the articles they utilise when issuing these bans are absolutely wrong. The articles 114 and 115 of the Penal Code they reference say “visits and communications for the arrestees to ensure the security of ongoing investigations and prosecutions”. But our client and other people in the prison are already convicted, they don’t have ongoing investigations or prosecutions. Thus, the decree issued by the Bursa Judge of Execution Office is very odd. We appealed against the decree at the Bursa 2nd High Criminal Court yesterday, now we’re waiting for their response. If that response is also negative, we will take the matter to the Constitutional Court. We have already filed a claim with the Constitutional Court for an injunction on July 20, 2016 because we can’t meet with our client.

“The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) can only share report with government approval”

The CPT carried out an inquiry in Imralı 3 months ago, but they still haven’t issued the report. Why do you think this is?

We have been informing the CPT of Mr. Öcalan’s situation for a long time. We send occasional reports, and sometimes we meet. As a result of these meetings, the CPT visited Imralı 3 months ago, but they still haven’t issued their report on that visit. First we need to explain what the CPT is to the public. The CPT isn’t an NGO, it is a body of the Council of Europe. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is, they can visit any prison in Turkey without prior notice or permission. This is how they visited Imralı 6 times before. The disadvantage is, every member state has a representative in the CPT. For example, France has a representative, Russia has a representative – and Turkey has a representative. In this sense, we can say that the CPT is an institution with political reflexes. CPT has an operational procedure. To issue a report on a visit, they notify the Turkish government of the determined situation and give them time to respond. Then they can only publish the report if the government gives permission. In all 5 visits before, the government gave the permission and that was how the reports were able to be published.

Did you appeal to the CPT after the coup attempt?

Yes, we appealed to the CPT again on 20 July 2016 and informed them of the current process. We told them there had been a coup attempt in Turkey and there was chaos, and that we were concerned for the safety of our client Mr. Öcalan. We explained that the country was going through an extraordinary process and claims of torture increased in all prisons in Turkey, and we requested they conduct an inquiry in Imralı again.

“Call for awareness”

Are there other actions planned to break the isolation other than the routine appeals?

Mr. Öcalan’s case had started according to the Turkish judicial system, trials were held, but even the European court said our client wasn’t allowed a fair trial. Mr. Öcalan being handed over to Turkey, being put on trial, receiving the death penalty first and then the penalty being reduced to aggravated life sentence isn’t separate from the Kurdish question. This is a political trial, thus the solution of this trial is directly connected to the solution of the Kurdish issue. As I said before, the Kurdish people are very conscious of this matter and they are deeply concerned following this coup attempt. Frankly, we want to express that we expect even more consciousness from the public.

“Only putschists would do this”

It is said the coup was quashed and democracy won. But a state of emergency has been declared. Isn’t this a contradiction?

Yes, it seems like the military coup has been diffused, but on the other hand, we can say that it looks like the AKP has staged a coup. The government is eliminating all groups they see as enemies, they have left tens of thousands of people without jobs and then arrested them. The people who staged the coup would normally declare the state of emergency, but we have the opposite. So, the coup was diffused but a state of emergency was declared. The statutory decree issued within this state of emergency raised the upper limit of the detention period to 30 days. This is only something putschists would do in this country. The 30-day detention is an invitation for torture. In any other case, taking statements from people would take 3-4 days maximum.

“Unlawful situation in Imrali spread across Turkey”

As of today, you haven’t been able to meet with your client Mr. Öcalan for exactly 5 years. What are your comments about this?

With the declaration of the state of emergency, the people arrested for being “parallelist” [members of the alleged “parallel state structure”] haven’t been allowed to meet with their lawyers for 12 days. As this period gets longer, legal circles are stunned and they start asking, “How is it possible that they haven’t been allowed to see their lawyers?”. Well, this is what we’ve been experiencing for exactly 5 years. This didn’t even happen in the 12 September 1980 coup period. And the worst part is, they didn’t allow us lawyers to see Mr. Öcalan during the resolution process either.

We demand Mr. Öcalan be subjected to normal law immediately, be able to see his lawyers. Mr. Öcalan had said countless times during the solution process in meetings with both the state and the [HDP]committee, that if the solution process failed, the coup mechanism would go into motion. He was right, again. This is why the “frozen” solution process needs to start again.

Turkey can actually turn this coup into an opportunity. Right now, the unlawful situation in Imralı has spread all over Turkey. All of Turkey has turned into Imralı. In 2005, the laws were changed for Mr. Öcalan, they began to record the lawyer-client relationship in Imralı, for the first time Mr. Öcalan’s were banned from the profession, and for the first time Mr. Öcalan’s lawyers were arrested. But today, with the state of emergency, we see that in 2016 these arbitrary practices have spread all over Turkey.

Kurdish Question