Öcalan’s lawyer: “We can only assume he is alive”

Kurdish People’s Leader Öcalan was last contacted by his brother on September 22, 2016 and hasn’t been heard from since. His lawyer İbrahim Bilmez said, “We can only assume he is alive.”

The isolation imposed upon Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan has continued unabated for a year. It has been 2 months since Öcalan’s lawyers prepared a report on July 27, and during this time there has been no news from the Imrali Island regarding the Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan. Öcalan has last been contacted by his brother in September 22, 2016. Lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez from the Asrin Law Office spoke to the ANF about the matter.


Lawyer Bilmez said they wanted to let the public understand the isolation with the report they prepared in July 27, and that there have been no positive developments yet. Bilmez said they appealed to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office twice every week for the weekly visitation and once a week for the family visits, and that all of the appeals have been rejected. Bilmez mentioned the completely illegal executive judge decree issued after July 15 and continued: “When we announced the report, we explicitly stated that we are pressing charges against the prosecutors who prevent our visit to the island. We have also appealed with the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors (HSYK) and that is underway but there are no developments yet. The prosecutor’s office is clearly committing a crime because no lawyer has been to the island since July 27, 2011. Not for Mr. Öcalan, or for other prisoners. Shortly after we announced the report, the prosecutor was replaced, but nothing changed and this prosecutor also rejects our appeals. So we are preparing to press charges against him as well.”


Bilmez stressed that normally no permit is needed from the prosecutor’s office for lawyers to visit their clients, but the isolation system in Imrali has been constructed to be so from the beginning, and explained the bias: “Because it is an island prison, it is not possible for us to physically travel there with our own means. We were told to appeal with the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, and we have to appeal to visit the island. Normally, lawyers who would visit their clients would go to the prison, hand in their ID at the gate and have the visit. It doesn’t matter if the client is convicted or in remand. We make these appeals because we have to, but the prosecutor’s office rejects us as if we are demanding a permit.”


Bilmez said the family visit appeal for the Eid is the one rejected most recently, and stressed that this is a severe situation not only in the sense of defense, but in regards to humane treatment as well. Lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez stated that there has been no contact since Mehmet Öcalan’s visit on September 22, 2016 and reiterated that no letters or telegrams have come out of Imrali, and telephone rights of all prisoners there have been revoked.


Bilmez said their appeals regarding Öcalan’s health have also been rejected and continued: “We tried to meet with the prosecutor regarding Mr. Öcalan’s health as well. We asked for a copy of his chart there, because Mr. Öcalan has existing conditions that we are aware of, and we are concerned because we haven’t seen him. But these appeals were also rejected. We have no information on the fate of the letters and telegrams we sent. We don’t know if he received them or not. We can only assume our clients are there.


Lawyer Bilmez said they deliberately included the ongoing lawsuits against Abdullah Öcalan in the report and continued: “The lawsuits we filed, the charges we pressed are also in the report. In the Constitutional Court in Turkey and in the European Court of Human Rights. We deliberately included these, because occasionally the Ministry of Justice or other government officials use manipulation and claim that our clients have no ongoing lawsuits and thus don’t need to meet with their lawyers. But that does not reflect the truth, our clients have several lawsuits. And, according to Turkish law, convicts don’t need to have ongoing lawsuits to be able to meet with their lawyers. Because lawyers also have the right to monitor, inspect and control the execution of the punishment. Because convicts can’t be left alone after they are put behind walls. The effects of the punishment on the person need to be monitored. So, that is a duty of the lawyer as well, but we are prevented from this duty too.”