The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has deemed an appeal by Abdullah Öcalan admissible and will hear the case of Öcalan v Greece regarding the 1999 arrest of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder in the Greek embassy in Kenya, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Tuesday.
Öcalan had sought asylum in Greece at the time, citing a high possibility that he would face ill treatment and torture in Turkey and that he would have no access to a fair trial. Before the asylum procedures were completed, Greek authorities sent him to the embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where he stayed in the Greek ambassador’s residence for some time before being asked to leave.
He was then abducted by Turkish intelligence agents on 15 February, and taken back to Turkey, where he faced trial on treason and terrorism charges, and was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole when Turkey removed the death penalty.
The arrest led to resignations in the Greek cabinet at the time, and the Greek ambassador later said his life had been in danger, according to news website Greek Reporter.
Öcalan’s legal team argue that his transfer to Kenya violated the right to life and the ban on torture and ill treatment, as laid out by the European Convention on Human Rights Article 2 and 3, and that being held in the Greek embassy was also in violation of the right to freedom and security in Article 5.
In 2017, a Greek court ruled against the PKK founder in a similar complaint from 2008, saying government policies was outside the jurisdiction, that court had not been provided with enough time to resolve his appeal for asylum at the time, and that the state could not be held responsible for failures by individual intelligence agents.
The ECHR now demands Greece respond to an initial inquiry, namely, whether Öcalan was handed over to Turkey by Greek agents. Greece will have 12 weeks to respond, after which the court may hold hearings. It is expected to issue a ruling on the case next year.
Regarding an appeal by Öcalan’s legal team, the ECHR in 2003 issued an initial ruling that his rights to a just trial, right to safety and security, and the ban on ill treatment had been violated.
The court in a second case issued a ruling in 2014 that the conditions of Öcalan’s arrest in the İmralı Island Prison in northwest Turkey had violated his rights. The court also ruled that Öcalan’s life sentence without any possibility of parole violated the right to hope.
Öcalan has remained in absolute isolation since March 2021, when he was briefly allowed to speak with his brother on the phone. He has not been allowed physical contact with the outside world since a short visit by his brother again in March 2020.
Asrın Law Office lawyers, who represent Öcalan and other inmates who were transferred to İmralı in 2015, repeated that they had not received any information from any of their clients in İmralı in the last 20 months.
The lawyers met with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) when a CPT delegation visited İmralı in September as the only international organisation allowed to do so. CPT did not provide them with any details on the prison conditions, despite the laws that bind the committee allowing the divulgence of such information.
Öcalan reportedly refused to meet with the CPT delegation in protest for their inaction over the years.
Meanwhile, Turkey has failed its obligations to ensure the right to hope for all prisoners, responding in October to a Council of Europe (CoE) demand for a rectified action plan by arguing certain crimes were exempt from the possibility of review of life sentences without the option for parole.