Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), faces a new ban on lawyer and family visits, further isolating him in Turkey’s İmralı F Type High Security Prison in Bursa and deepening the prolonged deprivation of communication Öcalan has endured for the past 27 months.
Lawyers from Asrin Law Office that represent Öcalan have consistently been denied access to their client. Despite efforts to challenge the ban through legal channels, applications for visits are left unanswered or rejected on disciplinary grounds.
The lawyers made new applications for access after the 6 February earthquake affected the prison facility but discovered that Öcalan and his co-prisoners had already been issued a three-month ban on visits from January 2023. Despite persistent attempts to secure visits, the lawyers have faced further rejections. A Bursa court declined the requests and objections, citing a new visitor ban decision issued by İmralı prison administration. The lawyers’ subsequent appeal to court was rejected in April, solidifying the ban on family visits to Öcalan.
Öcalan’s applications for lawyer visits, banned since October 2022, remain unanswered. The prolonged isolation and visitation bans raises concern about his well-being and the violation of his rights. Advocates for his case continue to demand access to their client and call for international attention.
• 31 May 1999 Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned at Turkey’s İmralı F Type High Security Prison in Bursa.
• 29 June 1999 Öcalan receives the death sentence.
• August 2002 Öcalan’s sentence is commuted to aggravated life imprisonment. He has remained in İmralı prison since.
• August 2019 Öcalan receives his last in-person lawyer visit to date.
• 3 March 2020 Öcalan receives his last meeting in-person with his brother to date. No family visits have been permitted since.
• 25 March 2021 Öcalan has a brief interrupted phone call with his brother. Since this date Öcalan has been kept under conditions of total incommunicado.
• 27 October 2022 Lawyer visits to Öcalan are banned, though Asrin Law Office makes repeated applications to visit Öcalan.
• 23 December 2022 Lawyers apply to a Bursa court to challenge the ban on family visits.
• 3 January 2023 The application is rejected, citing a three month family visit ban, without disclosing reasons.
• 10 January 2023 The lawyers appeal to another Bursa court to lift the ban, but it is rejected on the same day without explanation.
• 10 January 2023 A three month visit ban on Öcalan comes into force. The lawyers continue to apply twice a week for lawyer visits and once a week for family visits.
• 6 February 2023 Earthquakes affect prison facility, the lawyers made new applications for both lawyer and family visits.
• 6 April 2023 Lawyers make separate visit applications to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and İmralı prison administration.
• 12 April 2023 The applications are rejected with the Bursa court notifying that a new ban was issued on 15 March, even before the previous ban had expired.
• 14 April 2023 The lawyers appeal the decision.
• 27 April 2023 Lawyers apply once again for lawyer visits, with no response from the judge.
• 30 April 2023 The lawyer’s appeal is rejected under a new ban on family visits.
The İmralı Delegation, comprising representatives from various countries, has urged the Council of Europe to intervene and facilitate a new peace process. Catalan MP Laura Castel, part of the delegation, emphasised the urgent need for Öcalan’s release and his involvement in future negotiations for a peaceful resolution.
During their visit, the delegation observed Öcalan’s isolation and the Turkish government’s growing authoritarianism. They witnessed the escalating isolation regime in İmralı and the exploitation of Öcalan for political purposes. Despite rulings by the European Court of Human Rights against Öcalan’s life sentence and the responsibility of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to combat torture, concrete actions have yet to be taken to address human rights violations in Turkey.
Presenting their report during the Council of Europe’s recent meeting in Reykjavik, the delegation called for decisive action, including negotiations for peace, Öcalan’s release, and the implementation of European Court of Human Rights’ decisions.
Fazela Mohammed, a fellow fighter of Nelson Mandela, has also criticised Turkey’s treatment of Öcalan, urging immediate action against his absolute isolation, which qualifies as torture under international law.