The isolation system in İmralı Island Prison surpasses even the notorious maximum security prisons known as SuperMax, which have earned the reputation of being “hell on earth,” according to renowned prison expert Denis O’Hearn.
In an interview with Erem Kansoy of Özgür Politika on Thursday, O’Hearn expressed concern over “the unprecedented level of isolation” endured by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Prison.
O’Hearn compared the conditions to the infamous “dark prisons” in the United States and Afghanistan. Calling for global attention to the matter, he said, “Öcalan’s conditions in İmralı prison have no equivalent. What is being done there must be brought to light. What has been done to Öcalan should be known and heard not only in Turkey but all over the world.”
The prison expert from the University of Texas drew attention to the Nelson Mandela Laws, the UN’s expanded guidelines for the protection of prisoners, and stressed that isolating a prisoner from the outside world for more than 15 days is recognised as a form of torture. He urged Europe to directly address Turkey, stating, “Europe needs to say to Turkey, ‘What you are doing to Öcalan is torture’. But they are not doing this.”
Öcalan has been detained on the prison island of İmralı since 1999 and has been held in absolute isolation since 25 March 2021, with no access to family or legal representation.
The conditions in İmralı have long been a subject of concern for human rights groups, who argue that Öcalan’s isolation and lack of communication violate fundamental human rights.