Thousands joined a rally in Strasbourg on Saturday on the invitation of Kurdish organisations, calling on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to ensure that international law is respected regarding the conditions of detention of Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned in almost absolute isolation on Imralı Island in Turkey since 1999.
The rally continued in a peaceful manner throughout the day. However, the Kurdish organisations wanted to set up a camp they called a “communal village” as a peaceful sit-in, but this was banned and later attacked by the police.
The campaigners of the ‘Freedom Shall Prevail – Act for Öcalan’ Initiative said in a written statement on Monday that the attack on Saturday shows the “role of France in the Imralı regime”.
“The things that happened after the rally we organised outside the Council of Europe building in Strasbourg only go to display the role of the French state in the Imralı regime. Patriotic Kurds and their friends exercised their right to civil disobedience and set up a tent-village-commune to initiate a socio-political action based on civil law for the freedom of Leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan]. The decision of the Mayor of Strasbourg to order special police to attack this peaceful action and the civil rights of our people and our friends was a political one,” the campaigners said.
The campaigners announced that French police used batons and teargas on protesters, among whom there were children, women and elderly people.
The French union Solidaires issued a written statement in solidarity with the Kurdish activists attacked.
“Once again, the French state has chosen repression in the face of the just struggle of the people for their freedom. Together we will win,” Solidaires said in the written statement.
“The Union Syndicale Solidaires stands together with the Kurdish organisations against this extremely violent repression, assures the rally participants of its support and wishes a quick recovery to those who have been injured,” the statement read.
The European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress (KCDK-E) also issued a written statement condemning the police attack in Strasbourg.
“The international forces who carried out the plot against leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] 23 years ago aimed at destroying his freedom struggle and that of the Kurdish people. Those forces, who failed then, are still trying to continue with the plot today,” KCDK-E said.
The KCDK-E criticised the Mayor of Strasbourg and the police, for “supporting the dirty policies of [the Turkish president] Erdoğan, who acts with the mind-set of DAESH,” and called on the French authorities “to make an immediate public statement regarding the shameful attack on the communal sit-in camp launched by the of ‘Freedom Shall Prevail-Act for Öcalan’ Initiative”.
The violent police attack on Saturday came after dozens of tents had been put up in the square. Many elderly and young people, including a few disabled people took part in this sit-in.
Some hours after the tents were put up, the police suddenly surrounded the camp. The participants were sitting and chanting slogans, and the police physically attacked them, subjecting them to violence and tear gas, ANF reported. People were dragged to the ground, punched, sprayed with pepper spray. Tents were torn down, belongings were scattered and some people were arrested.
There were many speakers at the demonstration held including Remzi Kartal, co-chair of the Kurdistan People’s Congress (Kongra-Gel); Simon Dubbins, director of international & research for the UNITE Union; Clare Baker, a member of Peace in Kurdistan and secretary of the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign; Prof. Dr. Maria Laura Corradi from the Committee for Freedom for Öcalan in Italy; Dr. Mohamed Al Shami, president of the International Alliance for the Defence of Rights and Freedoms (AIDL); a representative of the Union Syndicale Solidaires and many others.
A list of three main demands signed by the 14 institutions involved in the organisation of rally was presented to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the ECtHR and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The institutions demanded that Abdullah Öcalan and all other prisoners in Imralı receive visits from the CPT, their lawyers and their family members and that the practices of isolation be ended.
The 14 institutions also asked the ECtHR, the Council of Europe and the United Nations to impose sanctions on Turkey as the current detention regime does not comply with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.
The third and the final demand was adressed to the PACE, calling on the PACE to take all political measures in their power to ensure the release of Abdullah Öcalan.