‘I went to see Abdullah Öcalan three times’: an interview with a former member of the CPT

Jean-Pierre Restellini visited Abdullah Öcalan in prison three times as a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). In this interview for Medya Haber he talks about those visits in 1999, 2010, and 2013, in which Öcalan, who he describes as ‘a very sympathetic person’, became a ‘good friend’.

Restellini explains that Öcalan’s physical conditions were not the problem, but that the isolation imposed on him is ‘a terrible violence’, which he is only able to survive because he knows the Kurdish people are behind him.

He discusses the restrictions under which the CPT operates, which don’t allow them to publish their reports without the response and authorisation of the state that is being criticised, and explains that if the CPT were to breach these rules it would endanger the possibility of further inspections.

Restellini responds to a question on the terrorist listing of the PKK by the European Parliament, with the argument that the term ‘terrorist’ is only used to defame certain groups of people and should be banned – noting that the European listing may have been the result of political pressure. And he describes talking with Öcalan about the similarities between his situation and that of Nelson Mandela, who was considered a terrorist by South Africa but became leader of the country.

As with the South African case, Restellini stressed the importance of campaigning, including actions such as the vigil outside the Council of Europe.