Originally published: https://anfenglishmobile.com/human-rights/eldh-secretary-general-and-european-lawyers-speak-out-against-the-isolation-of-Ocalan-63545

08 November 2022 | ANF English

ELDH Secretary General Thomas Schmidt said that European countries did nothing to lift the isolation imposed on Öcalan, while the peoples of Europe were aware of the issue and the paradigm of Abdullah Öcalan was known to all world’s peoples.

775 lawyers registered with 29 bar associations applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on June 10, 2022 to visit Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and his fellow prisoners Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş in İmralı F Type High Security Prison.

On September 14, 350 lawyers from 22 countries and on September 19, 691 lawyers from North and East Syria and different regions of Syria submitted requests to the Turkish Ministry of Justice to visit Öcalan and other prisoners in the Imrali prison.

The Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) held a press conference in its office in Beyoğlu, Istanbul today together with several other lawyers from various European countries. Signatory Fabio Marcelly from Italy, Deputy Secretary General of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), Thomas Schmidt, lawyers of the Asrın Law Office and ÖHD (Libertarian Lawyers’ Association) Co-Chair İlknur Alcan, as well as many lawyers attended the press conference on Tuesday.


ÖHD Co-Chair İlknur Alcan said that there is absolute isolation in İmralı and, apart from exceptions, no family or lawyer visits have been allowed since 2011. “We no longer consider the isolation in the Imrali prison as a normal isolation, but as an aggravated isolation within isolation. The prisoners in Imrali are not allowed to enjoy any rights,” she stated.


According to Alcan, Asrın Law Office requested the ÖHD to undertake the legal initiative, but the Ministry of Justice has not responded to their request. “The appeal to the Turkish ministry also attracted the attention of our colleagues in other countries. Nearly two thousand lawyers applied to the Ministry of Justice. Many of them are here today,” Alcan said.

İbrahim Bilmez, one of the lawyers from the Asrın Law Office which represents Abdullah Öcalan and other Imrali prisoners, emphasized that they have been fighting the “unlawfulness” in Imrali for 23 years. “Imagine that there is a prison in Europe and lawyers have not been able to go there in any way since July 27, 2011. Only 5 lawyer visits were allowed in 2009. Currently, no lawyers can meet with Mr. Öcalan and other prisoners. Normally, prisoners within the European system and in many parts of the world are allowed to make phone calls, but the last phone call with Öcalan took place in March 2021. There has been no news from that prison since. It is not possible for such a prison to exist in London or Paris. But this prison exists in İmralı. Unfortunately, all European legal institutions turn a blind eye to this serious unlawfulness,” Bilmez said.


Bilmez insisted that the lawlessness in Imrali concerned the whole country. “This issue does not only concern the Kurds and Mr. Öcalan’s family. The isolation has gradually spread all over the country. Aggravated life imprisonment was also introduced with Mr. Öcalan’s case. Turkey is supposed to make regulations on this issue and, unfortunately, European institutions keep ignoring this issue as well.”

Bilmez also addressed the Kurdish question and said, “The Kurdish question is one of the most structural problems. Those who rule the country have always prioritized security policies. Mr. Öcalan has always done his best for peace. The state knows this very well. Mr. Öcalan is very sincere about achieving a solution and made repeated efforts which, however, did not yield results. He hasn’t been allowed to meet anyone since 2011. The Kurdish question has continued to exit since 2011, the PKK still exists, and Turkish soldiers are dying. The absolute isolation of Mr. Öcalan would not lead to a solution to the Kurdish question. 5-6 years ago, Mr. Öcalan’s statements were broadcast live by all media outlets in Turkey and there was a very positive atmosphere in the country. However, when we look at today’s Turkey, nobody is happy, the country has turned into an open prison, the economy is on the verge of collapse. Therefore, this isolation must be lifted. We want our foreign colleagues to get information on this matter. 350 colleagues from 22 different countries have applied to the Turkish authorities for a visit. A similar campaign was also conducted in the Middle East where 750 lawyers endorsed the initiative.To expose the unlawfulness in Imrali and to receive the solidarity of our colleagues is very important to us, and we want to expand this solidarity together.”


ELDH Secretary General Thomas Schmidt then read the open letter European lawyers sent to the Turkish Ministry of Justice in mid-September, which reads as follows:

“Dear Minister,

Abdullah Öcalan, Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, who are detained in the İmralı F-Type High Security Prison, are unlawfully prevented from seeing their lawyers. While Abdullah Öcalan has not been allowed to see his lawyer since August 7, 2019, Veysi Aktaş, Hamili Yıldırım and Ömer Hayri Konar have not been allowed to see their lawyers even once since 2015, when they were transferred to İmralı Island.

A special and discriminatory form of isolation has been applied in İmralı Prison since February 15, 1999. The ban on lawyer visits has been in effect continuously for 8 years, since July 27, 2011, until May 2, 2019. In 2019, 5 lawyer visits took place. After the last lawyer visit on August 7, 2019, the ban was resumed.

It has to be stated that Öcalan has not been heard from since a last short phone call took place on March 25, 2021. This constitutes a worrying circumstance. As a lawyer closely following affairs in Turkey, I am well aware of the political and social impact of this situation.

In its report on its 2019 visit to the İmralı Prison, published on 5 August 2020, the CPT considered the total ban on Öcalan’s and the other three inmates’ contacts with the outside world as a type of incommunicado imprisonment. The CPT stated that such a state of affairs was unacceptable and contravened relevant international human rights instruments and standards.

The continuous interference with the right to defense and the state of isolation imposed on Öcalan and the other inmates have prompted statements by international law organizations such as ELDH, AED, and Lawyer for Lawyers and critical reactions by a wide network of lawyers on different occasions.

I would like to remind you that on June 10, 2022, 775 lawyers registered to 29 different Bar Associations applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office with the request to have lawyer visits with Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, Mr. Hamili Yıldırım, Mr. Ömer Hayri Konar and Mr. Veysi Aktaş by putting an end to the illegal ban on lawyer visits in İmralı Prison.

The ban on lawyer visits to İmralı Prison clearly violates the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) updated in 2015, the recommendations of the CPT and Turkey’s Execution Law (Law No. 5275). States have an obligation to ensure that detainees and prisoners are able to exercise their rights regardless of their identity and the nature of their sentence.

It is also a violation of the rights and privileges of lawyers as set out in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular Basic Principles 8 and 16.

Basic Principle 8 is very clear: “All arrested, detained or imprisoned persons shall be provided with adequate opportunities, time and facilities to be visited by and to communicate and consult with a lawyer, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality. Such consultations may be within sight, but not within the hearing, of law enforcement officials.” Similarly, Basic Principle 16 also states that Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad.

Pursuant to Article 25 of the Regulation on Visits of Convicted and Detained Persons, foreign lawyers – even without a power of attorney – have the right to see a convicted person in Turkey, provided that they comply with international conventions to which the Republic of Turkey is a party and the principle of reciprocity.

The enduring efforts of our colleagues in Turkey against the isolation and violation of the right to defense is essentially a struggle for the implementation of the rights protected in international conventions to which Turkey is a party, especially the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, I submit to you my application to see Abdullah Öcalan and the other prisoners held in İmralı, Veysi Aktaş, Hamili Yıldırım, and Ömer Hayri Konar, within the scope of Article 25 of the mentioned Regulation.”

Schmidt then answered journalists’ questions and stated that European countries did nothing to lift the isolation imposed on Öcalan, while the peoples of Europe were aware of the issue and the paradigm of Abdullah Öcalan was known to all world’s peoples.