Turkey building new prison for PKK members

10/11/2009

After living in solitary confinement for about ten years, the head of the terrorist PKK is getting a new address.

By Esra Erduran for Southeast European Times in Ankara -- 10/11/09

photo

A man displays an image of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration last month. [Getty Images]

Abdullah Ocalan, the infamous leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is expected to receive some company for the first time in about a decade. The PKK -- responsible for more than 35,000 deaths in clashes with Turkish security forces -- is dubbed a terrorist organisation by the United States and the EU.

Since being captured in Kenya by Turkish elite forces in 1999, Ocalan has been the only inmate on the small prison island of Imrali, located in the south of the Sea of Marmara. He was awaiting execution for treason, until the death penalty was abolished in 2002 as part of measures by Turkey to harmonise its laws with those of the EU.

He spends his days carrying out a life sentence behind bars at the island's F-type, or maximum security prison, without the possibility of parole.

But his days of isolation are over. Ocalan is being transferred to a new prison on the island, along with several other criminals.

According to a report from Turkish news portal soL, the prisoners who have applied for transfer to the island include: Sakir Akkurt, Cetin Arkas, Yasar Cinbas, Nihat Ekmez, Lokman Lacin, Mustafa Okcul, Nedim Ozalp, Naif Ozkilic, Huseyin Yildirim and Sait Yildirim -- all alleged PKK members who have been sentenced to life behind bars or aggravated imprisonment.

The ministry of justice said the list will be reduced to eight, according to the results of tests the ten prisoners were asked to take.

According to sources, Ocalan will be alone in his cell, but allowed to associate with inmates located in his zone during breaks. Some reports also say that Ocalan will have a TV.

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The justice ministry started construction on the new prison after an assessment by the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).

A CPT delegation had visited Ocalan and interviewed him about his living conditions. The delegation also met with Ocalan's attorneys, who had been complaining it was difficult to visit their client under the current conditions.

The recent developments came in the midst of the Turkish government's democratic initiative -- an attempt to show goodwill towards the Kurds.

According to CNN Turk, the new facility cost about 3.3m euros.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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