Imprisoned Kurdish politician denied release for ‘saying hello to other prisoners’ families’

Mukaddes Kubilay, who was arrested and sentenced to prison when she was the co-mayor of the eastern Ağrı province in 2016, has not been released even though her conditional release period has expired.

The reason the Sincan Prison Administration and Observation Board cited for delaying her release was that Kubilay “caused forming of factions towards negative behavior by exchanging greetings with families of other convicts.”

The politician’s attorney, Nuray Özdoğan, told bianet, “People who have been in prison for year greet each other. In 2022, greeting became a reason for punishment.”

Any kind of demands by convicts for their rights end in disciplinary punishments, which are then cited as reasons for delaying the release of prisoners, she said. However, she added, Kubilay hadn’t received such a disciplinary punishment.

While convicts of criminal offenses are released in similar cases, the rules are applied differently for convicts of political offenses said. “These practices against political convicts are against human dignity.”

Why her release was rejected

Kubilay should have been released from the Sincan Women’s Closed Prison on August 4.

In a decision dates May 11, the administration and observation board stated that her “term score was 25, she could not exceed the threshold score, her ties with the [terrorist] organization were not broken, she did not have a statement that she was impartial and independent, and she did not show repentance,” and concluded that she was not in good conduct.

The judgeship of criminal enforcement reversed the decision because the reason why the convict’s score was reduced was not disclosed. However, after an appeal by the prison prosecutor, the Ankara Western Heavy Penal Court upheld the decision on July 27 and ruled that she could not benefit from the right to conditional release.

The Administration and Observation Board on July 28 decided that Kubilay was “not in good conduct and her conditional release would not be appropriate.”

“Statement of repentance”

The reason for this new decision was that Kubilay had been summoned for an interview but but had not come.

However, lawyer Özdoğan said an interview was not among the conditions for a conditional release as per article 89 of the Law No. 5275 on Criminal Enforcement.

“Convicts report that they are questioned alone by the administration under the guise of interview, that they try to get statements of repentance, and that questions were asked to them about whether they have given up on their political views, and their personal opinions about the [terrorist] organizations that [they are alleged to be members of].

“Those who object to the questions in the unlawful interrogation in these humiliating interviews are decided not to be in ‘good conduct’.”

Greeting prisoners’ families

Among the reasons for the board’s decision was the allegation that Kubilay “caused forming of factions towards negative behavior by exchanging greetings with families of other convicts.”

It was also claimed that Kubilay chanted slogans on June 6. However, she did not accept this claim, and it could be understood from the camera footage, said her attorney. “Moreover, as per a Constitutional Court verdict, chanting a slogan cannot be a reason for punishment as long as it does not threaten prison security.”

The lawyer further said, “In its decision, the board did not state the number of the decision of the disciplinary committee. While it is not possible to check this because of that, Kubilay has never chanted a slogan.”

Good conduct and delayed criminal enforcementThe amendment to article 89 of the criminal enforcement law, which is titled, “The evaluation of the convicts and determination of good conduct” came into force on January 1, 2021.Accordingly, in the Good Conduct Committee, the prosecutor and prison officials prepare a report before the conditional release of the prisoner and make evaluations. For political prisoners, criteria such as “repentance” and being a “confessor” are also evaluated.A bar association official or an attorney of the convict cannot be in the committee. This process can be implemented twice and conditional release can be delayed for six months after each evaluation.

The trial

Even though she had given a statement before, Kubilay was detained during a raid on her daughter’s home on December 22, 2016. She was remanded in custody four days later. On March 1, a trustee was appointed as the mayor. Her first hearing was held on April 25, 2017.

The allegations against her were based on the events she had attended in the name of her party, statements for the press, municipal activities, and her attendance in some funerals. The books seized during the raid were also cited as evidence, even though they were not banned.

Also, he statement of an anonymous witness was taken during a hearing that Kubilay and her attorney were not informed of, and this statement was considered evidence.

On February 16, 2018, the court sentenced her to 8 years, 6 months and 15 days in prison for “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” and “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”

The Erzurum Regional Court of Justice and then the Court of Cassation upheld the sentence.

The 1-year-and-15-day part of the sentence is under the Court of Cassation’s review due to a legal arrangement.

About Mukaddes Kubilay

She has been in politics since 1990. She became a mayoral candidate in Ağrı’s Doğubeyazıt district in 1999. She was one of the first three women mayors of the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP).

In 2004, she won the preliminary election against eight men candidates and was once again elected the Doğubeyazıt mayor.

In 2014, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) won the election for the Ağrı mayor and she became the co-mayor with Sırrı Sakık.

During her term in the office, she had established Women Working Units in order to make women influential and the administration of the municipality. One of the first things the trustee did was to shut down these units.