The European Court of Human Rights ruled that holding Abdullah Ocalan in isolation for more than a decade constitutes mistreatment by Turkish authorities.
STRASBOURG, France // The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey on Tuesday over its “inhuman” treatment of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The court ruled that holding the founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in isolation for more than a decade on the high-security island prison of Imrali constituted mistreatment by the Turkish authorities.
Mr Ocalan, who has been behind bars since his capture in 1999 and subsequent conviction for treason, was the sole prisoner on Imrali until the conditions of his detention were eased in 2009.
The court in Strasbourg said Turkey had violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment”, over his conditions up until 2009 but not since.
The judges also ruled it had violated the convention by sentencing him to life in prison without any possibility of release.
Mr Ocalan, 64, was captured by Turkish authorities in Nairobi in February 1999 and condemned to death for treason over the PKK’s armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule.
The sentence was commuted to life in prison when Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002.
Imrali, which lies off Istanbul, is notorious as the prison in the film “Midnight Express”, based on the true story of a US student who escaped after being caught trying to smuggle hash out of Turkey.
Mr Ocalan had complained about the irreducible nature of his sentence, and about the conditions of his detention, in particular his social isolation and restrictions on communication with members of his family and his lawyers.
He also claimed he was being poisoned, but the court said this complaint was “manifestly ill-founded”.
Mr Ocalan, known as “Apo” or uncle to Kurds, was once the nemesis of the Turkish state but last year announced a PKK ceasefire after months of clandestine talks with Turkey’s secret services.
However the peace process has been in limbo since November after the government and the PKK traded accusations that the other side had failed to respect their part of the truce.
The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, launched its insurgency in the south-east in 1984. It has claimed the lives of about 45,000 people.
* Agence France-Presse