Legal Action: A total of 1,330 lawyers have called for access to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, held incommunicado in Turkey’s İmralı Island for 34 months.

A total of 1,330 lawyers from 35 bar associations have lodged a petition with the Turkish Ministry of Justice requesting permission to meet with imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Island Prison.

The lawyers held a press conference outside Diyarbakır (Amed) Judicial Buildings, where the petition was lodged, calling for an end to the 34-month absolute isolation imposed on Öcalan and his fellow İmralı Prison inmates, Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, and pointing out that the ban on legal visits has been in place since 7 August 2019.

The lawyers also referred to an assessment of the situation by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which stated in a report published on 5 August that Öcalan and the other three prisoners were subject to a total ban on contact with the outside world, describing it as “a type of incommunicado imprisonment”. The CPT found “such a state of affairs is unacceptable and clearly contravenes international human rights instruments and standards”.

The lawyers argued that the ban on legal visits to İmralı Prison violates Turkish law as well as international rules and human rights conventions. They stressed that states have an obligation to ensure that prisoners and convicts can exercise their rights regardless of their identity and the nature of their sentence.

Highlighting their previous efforts, the lawyers mentioned that in 2022, 775 lawyers from 29 different bar associations across Turkey, including chairs of bar associations, had requested the Turkish authorities to lift the ban on legal visits. However, no response was received.

In addition, 350 lawyers from 22 mainly European countries, lodged a petition in September 2022 seeking to meet with the detainees on İmralı Island, as did over 750 lawyers from the Middle East in September 2022. These international applications also remained unanswered.

The lawyers concluded by reiterating their call for an immediate end to the ongoing rights violations and isolation, stressing that their efforts are in line with the principles set out in international agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party.