Öcalan's lawyer Bilmez: Ending isolation will open way to peace

"The sole demand of the hunger strikers is that the Turkish state complies with its own laws and puts an end to the isolation."

A conference called “Öcalan and Democratic Confederalism: Towards the creation of a fair, pluralistic and ecological society” was held in Palermo. ANF interviewed Ibrahim Bilmez, lawyer of Öcalan.

The conference was organised by UIKI and had the support of mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando.

ANF talked to lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez, one of the lawyers of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan, from Asrin Hukuk Burosu.


We can say very clearly that we have no contact at all with Imralı. We can’t receive any news from Imralı at all. 

The demand of the hunger strikers, i.e. the end of the isolation imposed on Öcalan and the Turkish government’s implementation of its own law, is essentially a demand for a resolution of the Kurdish question through peaceful ways. Because, if isolation ends, this could also mean the Turkish state’s putting an end to its security policies. It could mean a return to the resolution process. In this regard, the hunger strikers are putting their bodies and life at risk and pay a price in order for the Kurdish question to be solved through peaceful means and the whole Turkey is democratized.  


Apart from Öcalan, we have three other clients in Imralı. The same situation applies to them too. Since the day they were transferred to Imralı, they have not been allowed a single visit by their families or lawyers. They have been subject to the very same isolation that is imposed on Mr. Öcalan. The practice of group isolation is carried out on them as well. They can never exercise their rights to a phone call, and they can’t send or receive letters. For this reason, we cannot receive any news from them either. It goes without saying that Mr. Öcalan has never been granted the right for phone call, not once, since his imprisonment on Imralı on 15 February 1999, i.e. for 20 years. 

Still, we are trying to reach Imralı. We are trying it with every possible mean. For example, we always send registered and reply-paid letters. We also try to send fax, and even telegraph. However, we can never learn if these reach Mr. Öcalan or not because we never receive any reply. In the present circumstances, we have no contact with Imralı so we do not know what has been going on there. 


Other jails are also F-type prisons as is Imralı Prison which is officially named so. However, the practices differ a lot. The prisoners in other F-type prisons, for example in Tekirdağ or Kandıra, are allowed to meet their lawyers when they request so. They can also meet their families, send and receive letters, buy newspapers and books. However, this is not the case in Imralı. There is a strict isolation in place. Imralı is officially called a F-type prison but a special law is being executed there. We can even say that there is no law in Imralı. 

We, lawyers of Öcalan, have not been allowed any visit to Imralı since 27 July 2011. Although we file an appeal for a visit every week, we are constantly rejected for various unlikely reasons like “coaster repairs” and “bad weather”. Following the “coup attempt” on 15 July 2016, a court ruling was made on the pretext of State of Emergency (OHAL) and since then all our appeals have been rejected on the basis of this ruling.  


We regularly send reports to the CPT regarding the situation in Imralı and the conditions of our clients there. Every three months, we write to them about all the developments. From time to time we hold face to face meetings. Also this week, a colleague of ours is set to have a meeting with the CPT. Unfortunately, the CPT has been indirectly approving the isolation applied in Imralı through the attitude it has manifested so far. Because there are many things the CPT can do. They have published several reports before and stated that the conditions in Imralı must be improved. At this stage, however, the situation is much worse. There is a strict isolation in Imralı and the CPT is not taking any action. We expect the CPT to play its part. 


We have an urgent expectation from the European institutions and civil society organizations. People have put themselves on hunger strike demanding that Turkey complies with its own law, i.e. remove the isolation. Following the resistance led by Leyla Güven, a member of the parliament, thousands of people in prisons have joined the hunger strikes. 

Likewise, Kurdish politicians are among the activists on hunger strike in Strasbourg. As Imam Sis in Wales and other activists in South Kurdistan, many people are joining this action. The conditions of some of these people are already beyond the critical phase. Hundreds of people have already fast for over 70 days and their health deteriorates further every day. These people suffer every day. They cannot eat and their bodies are literally fading away.   

I said it before and repeat it now: the sole demand of the hunger strikers is that the Turkish state complies with its own laws and puts an end to the isolation. 

This is our urgent demand to the European institutions; to urge Turkey to obey its own laws. 

Our call is primarily addressed to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the Council of Europe because Turkey is a member of the CoE and there are binding conventions to which Turkey is a signatory, like the European Convention on Human Rights. Only the end of the isolation will make the hunger strikers -who are in critical conditions- stop their action.