Lawyers of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have urged for the closure of İmralı Island Prison, citing it as a key step towards resolving the Kurdish issue. Speaking to JinNews Agency on Saturday, Öcalan’s lawyer, Raziye Öztürk, emphasised that the Kurdish people view their freedom in Öcalan’s freedom, and see his position on a dignified, democratic solution as significant.
Öcalan has been held on İmralı Island since 1999 and is currently subjected to a severe isolation regime, with no contact with the outside world for over 34 months.
In 2023, Öcalan’s legal team, including lawyers Newroz Uysal and Rezan Sarıca, reported that all of their 169 requests for meetings were unanswered. They last met with Öcalan in 2019. The lawyers also revealed that they and Öcalan’s family face systematic six-month bans on meetings and disciplinary penalties, preventing any communication.
They emphasised the need for 2024 to be a year of freedom for Öcalan and resolution of the Kurdish issue. On 12 January, 14 civil society organisations petitioned the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) for an urgent visit to İmralı, highlighting the intensified struggle for Öcalan’s physical freedom and the end of his severe isolation.
Öztürk criticised the CPT for its inaction despite their 2019 visit to İmralı and the worsening conditions thereafter. She expressed frustration over the CPT’s failure to publish their report or effectively address the situation. Additionally, she condemned the political stance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and other European institutions, accusing them of enabling Turkey’s non-compliance with human rights standards.
On 25 March 2023, Öcalan’s lawyers appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) for the enforcement of precautionary measures to facilitate communication with their client. However, their efforts have yet to yield results. They also reported a lack of response to their calls for action from the Justice Ministry.