Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister
Ref. Threatening Letters Sent to Abdullah Ocalan Demand Full Investigation
A few days ago, it was revealed that Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, who has been held on Imrali Island in Turkey for more than 24 years, had been in receipt of anonymous threatening letters delivered to his prison cell with the full knowledge and apparent approval of the Turkish prison authorities. The letter – or letters – included lurid accounts of how Ocalan was to be poisoned and killed.
The detailed reports, published by leading Kurdish organisations, must not be brushed aside as rumour or scaremongering. The letters amount to threats on Ocalan’s life and must be treated with the utmost seriousness and the response must show a sense of urgency.
Reports of threats to any prisoners must be fully investigated and the responsible agencies have a duty to establish the facts that are the basis for the allegations.
Peace in Kurdistan condemns in the strongest possible terms any threats to Abdullah Ocalan, and we add our voice to those calling for a full and proper investigation into this latest incident.
We support the demands for an urgent mission from the UN to visit Abdullah Ocalan on Imrali. The Council of Europe and European Committee for the Prevention of Torture must stop its vacillating and act without delay.
While held in custody all individuals deserve a level of protection and should not be subjected to any form of threats at all. The safety of each prisoner should be guaranteed irrespective of who they are. That is a basic requirement of any justice system and there are international institutions created to ensure that codes of behaviour and standards of treatment are being adhered to.
But Abdullah Ocalan is no ordinary prisoner. He is a political leader of a national movement who commands the deepest of loyalties of millions of Kurdish people with support for him strong among the younger generation who have no personal memories of a time when Ocalan was not being held in prison.
Peace in Kurdistan has repeatedly insisted that Ocalan must be seen as a political leader and in fact we have consistently called for him to be freed convinced that he has a positive contribution to make to achieving a lasting peace settlement that will bring an end to the unresolved conflict between Turkey and the Kurds. The new reports of threats to his life are deeply concerning and risk a dangerous turn of events if anything were to happen to endanger Ocalan.
Kurds will never rest until their fears are assuaged about Abdullah Ocalan’s state of health and the consequences of any inexplicable harm being done to him in prison would be quite calamitous for social peace inside Turkey and with possible far reaching ramifications that would be hard to calculate.
The concern for Ocalan is compounded by his isolation and the exceptionally punitive treatment meted out over the years of his detention, including in particular the evidence of an attempted poisoning incident that came to light in March 2007 when chemical substances were intended to cause him serious harm. This incident was investigated by laboratory tests after a small sample of Ocalan’s hair was brought out of the prison.
These latest reports have echoes of that past incident because the threatening letters apparently mention the use of poison. This incident is once again causing the gravest consternations among Kurds and their supporters. The safety of Abdullah Ocalan must be guaranteed.
Over the recent period, Abdullah Ocalan has been kept in continued total isolation for a period of 28 months without ever seeing any visitors or even being allowed to communicate to his closest relatives or his lawyers. Under these circumstances, nobody knows a single thing about Ocalan’s present state of mental and physical health. This is simply unacceptable by any standards. It is unconscionable that President Erdogan and Turkey are feted and lauded by their allies on the global stage while inside the country’s prisons apparent abuses are being sanctioned.
Such unnecessary punitive isolation that Ocalan is subjected to amounts to intolerable inhumane treatment or torture. How Ocalan is being treated is a stain on Turkey and those who support it are effectively condoning state torture. No other prisoner held in Turkey is treated in the way that Ocalan is being treated. The latest reports add to the injuries that Ocalan is forced to endure and cannot be ignored.
Peace in Kurdistan calls on all governments to make representations to Turkey and for the relevant authorities who have powers to intervene to exercise their powers by acting now.
11 July 2023
Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Steve Sweeney, journalist, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.