9 October 1998: The day the international conspiracy began

In 1998, amid a unilateral ceasefire, Turkey, assisted by NATO, threatened Syria with war, forcing Abdullah Öcalan to leave the country on 9 October the same year. That day, the international conspiracy began.

Amid a unilateral ceasefire, Turkey, assisted by NATO, threatened Syria with war, forcing Abdullah Öcalan to leave Syria. Öcalan headed for Europe to promote a political solution to the Kurdish question.

That day, the international conspiracy began. Öcalan arrived in Athens from Syria on 9 October 1998. On 11 October he arrived in Moscow.

On 20 October, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon signed the Adana Protocol. Turkey-Syria relations "quickly improved."

On 4 November, the Duma, which is the lower legislative house of the Russian Federation, asked for the recognition of asylum for Öcalan with 298 votes in favour, and 1 against.

On 12 November,  Öcalan left for Rome, but on 16 January 1999, he left the Italian capital to fly back to Moscow, from where, on 29 January, he flew to Greece.

On 31 January, Öcalan tried to go to Belarus and the Netherlands; neither country allowed him to land. On 1 February, he returned to Athens. On 2 February, Greek officials took Öcalan to the Greek embassy in Nairobi en route to South Africa.

But on 15 February 1999, he was kidnapped from Nairobi, Kenya's capital, in an international clandestine operation and brought to Turkey.

Timeline since the kidnappings on 15 February 1999.

-16 February, arrival at Turkey’s İmralı Island, which had been emptied of other prisoners and declared a prohibited Military Zone

-25 February, first meeting with lawyers – brief and not in private

-2 March, first visit by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

-11 March, first private meeting with lawyers

-31 May, trial begins

-29 June, death sentence

-25 November, Turkey’s Court of Cassation upholds the judgement against Öcalan

-30 November, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) calls for death penalty not to be enacted


-6 September, second visit by CPT


-9 August, Turkish parliament abolishes the use of the death penalty in peacetime

-3 October, Öcalan’s death penalty commuted to life without the possibility of parole


-16-17 February, third visit by CPT

-12 March, ECtHR rules that Öcalan was not given a fair trial


-12 May, Grand Chamber of ECtHR upholds 2003 ruling


-19-22 May, fourth visit by CPT


-Öcalan involved in peace talks with government representatives


-18 April, two of Öcalan’s lawyers arrested

-17 November, Öcalan transferred to newly built prison on İmralı along with five others brought from other prisons


-26-27 January, fifth visit by CPT


-27 July, last visit of lawyers until May 2019.

-22 November, 42 of Öcalan’s lawyers arrested and accused of transmitting messages to a terrorist organisation


-3 January, Öcalan meets with two leading Kurdish politicians, Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat – the first of many meetings with MPs as part of the peace process, which continued until 2015

-16-17 January, sixth visit by CPT


-18 March, ECtHR ruling that Öcalan’s life imprisonment without parole violates his human rights, as did his detention conditions up to 2009

-6 October, family visits stopped


-16 March, the five prisoners also incarcerated on İmralı are exchanged for five others

-5 April, talks between Öcalan and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs as part of the peace process halted

-December, two of the five other inmates transferred to other prisons


-28-29 April, seventh visit by CPT

-15 June, coup attempt against Erdoğan, which became an excuse for a greater crackdown on all opposition

-11 September, Öcalan meets his brother


-8 November, Leyla Güven starts a hunger strike to call for an end to Öcalan’s isolation, which will eventually be joined by over 8,000 people


-12 January, Öcalan meets his brother

-2 May, Öcalan meets his lawyers

-6-17 May, eighth visit by CPT

-22 May, Öcalan meets his lawyers

-26 May, hunger strike ended

-12 and 18 June and 9 August, Öcalan meets his lawyers


-27 February, fire on İmralı Island

-3 March, Öcalan meets his brother


-27 April, Öcalan allowed his first phone call


-25 March, after rumours that Öcalan had died caused widespread fears, he was allowed a phone call to his brother – which was cut short after less than four minutes


-September, ninth visit by CPT. The report will be ready in March 2023


-17 February, Asrin Law Office published its 2022 report on rights violations and the current conditions in Imrali prison island

-19 May, the Imralı Peace Delegation presents its findings in Reykjavík.  The International Peace Delegation to Imralı held a fact-finding mission to Turkey on 10–13 May 2023