Ocalan tortured, lawyers threatened


By Norm Dixon

Lawyers representing Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) abducted by Turkish commandos in league with US intelligence agencies, say he is being psychologically tortured and denied his legal rights. The lives of the defence team have been threatened.

Ocalan was formally charged with treason on February 23 at a hearing on the remote Imrali Island prison. Turkish prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. Despite having been granted permission to attend, Ocalan's lawyers were turned away. On two later occasions, officials refused defence lawyers' access to their client.

It was not until February 25 — 10 days after Ocalan's abduction from Kenya — that two lawyers were permitted to visit the rebel leader. Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu and Hatice Korkut from the 15-member defence team provided by the Human Rights Association reported that Ocalan is being held under conditions that breach Turkish law: in a facility that is under the control of the armed forces, rather than the ministry of justice, and under constant interrogation.

The lawyers were permitted to see Ocalan for only 20 minutes. Two military interrogators wearing balaclavas and a judge were present. The lawyers pointed out the illegality of the interrogators' presence but the soldiers refused to leave when the judge asked them to.

The judge also illegally took notes of the lawyers discussion with Ocalan. Realising that the authorities had no intention of respecting Ocalan's right to confidentiality, they restricted the conversation to their client's health.

The defence team charged that Ocalan's treatment amounts to torture and expressed fears for his safety. "The fact that he is under the control of interrogators serving the Chief of Staff [of the armed forces], and that he is permitted no contact whatsoever with the outside world could lead to a deep psychological deterioration. There is also a strong probability that he could be murdered under the guise of it being suicide", the lawyers warned.

Okcuoglu said he believed Ocalan was being kept in a drugged state because his eyes were glazed. Another lawyer, Eren Kaskin, said that the TV footage of Ocalan being paraded blindfolded, shackled and flanked by masked men showed that he had been tortured. "He has been given drugs against his will and is constantly blindfolded ... Torture is not just electric shocks and beatings", Kaskin said.

The defence is being threatened by state-sponsored right-wing chauvinists. A right-wing mob stoned the lawyers' bus on February 25. "Wherever we go, we are attacked by a mob formed mostly from the ranks of the plainclothes police ... Not one single official [has] raised a finger to prevent us from being attacked, nor brought to justice those who carry out the offences. At any moment we can suffer further attacks or even be killed", Okcuoglu and Korkut said.

The lawyers have demanded that Ocalan be transferred to a regular prison, that all obstacles being placed in the way of Ocalan's defence be removed, and that the state guarantee the defence lawyers' safety.

On February 26, Okcuoglu resigned from the defence team following death threats to him and his family from members of the fascist Grey Wolves. The group has close links with the Turkish military.

On the same day, police detained another of Ocalan's lawyers, Osman Baydemir, accusing him of links with the PKK. He was released a day later without being charged.

Ankara's stepped up repression of the 15-million strong Kurdish minority continues. On February 25, Turkey's attorney-general asked the Constitutional Court to ban the legal Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HADEP) from participating in the April general election. The government claims that because Ankara is seeking to have HADEP outlawed in another court case that accuses the party of links with the banned PKK, HADEP should not be allowed to stand until investigations are complete.

HADEP acting leader Osman Ozcelik charges that the real reason is that the party is expected to poll well in the Kurdish south-east, especially in municipal elections. HADEP leader Murat Bozlak, jailed for alleged PKK links, will stand in the region's main centre, Diyarbakir.

Ankara reported on February 24 that it had killed five "rebels" near the town of Batman. Another 17 were reported killed on February 27 in the province of Sirnak. The military's body-counts often include civilians slaughtered to terrorise local people.

On March 1, the pro-government Anatolian news agency reported that 2000 Turkish troops, backed by helicopter gunships, had moved into the mountainous Hatay province near the Syrian border to attack PKK guerillas led by Ocalan's nephew, Hasan Atmaca.