350 lawyers from 22 countries apply to visit Imrali Prison

350 lawyers from 22 countries have submitted an application to the Turkish Ministry of Justice to pay a visit to the Imrali prison where Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan is kept in isolation.

Hundreds of lawyers from several countries of the world have applied to the Turkish Ministry of Justice to visit Kurdish leader Öcalan and other prisoners in İmralı. The lawyers announced their request to the public in a press statement in Brussels, Belgium.

Lawyers from 22 countries defined the current situation in the Imrali Prison as "a special and discriminatory form of isolation."

Four lawyers held a press meeting at the Press Club in Brussels regarding the lawyers’ application.

Hélène Debaty, President of the Union of Lawyers for Democracy (SAD) and a member of the European Democratic Lawyers (AED), Selma Benkhelifa from the Brussels Progressive Lawyers Network, Stéphane Boonen, Director of the Belgian German and French Bar Associations, and Maurice Krings, Former President of the Brussels Bar Association, attended the press conference as speakers.


Making a statement before the press conference, Mahmut Şakar said that 350 lawyers around the world signed the petition to visit Imralı.

Debaty stated that the lawyers also submitted a detailed report on Imrali to the relevant state agencies in Turkey.

Debaty recalled that 775 lawyers registered with 29 bar associations had applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on June 10, 2022 to visit the İmralı prison.

According to Article 25 of the Regulation on Visits to Convicts and Detainees, foreign lawyers have the right to visit convicts in Turkey, if they comply with the international conventions to which the Republic of Turkey is a party.


Debaty read out a letter submitted to the Turkish Ministry of Justice. The letter addressing the systematic violations of rights in the Imrali prison includes the following:

“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.2

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 mentioned Regulation.”


The signatories of the letter include the following:

Evelyn Durmayer (Vienna Austria), Robert Atcheson (NSW Australia), Dr. Ian D. Elis-Jones, Dr. Vicki Sentas, Karen Fletcher, Hasan Tarique, Alexis Deswaef, Dounia Alamat, Elisa Fontaine, Georges Henri Beauthier, Helene Debaty, Hind Riad, Jan Fermon, Jean Marc Picard, Jean-Philippe de Wind, Joke Callewaert, Loica Lambert, Marie Doutrepont, Maurice Krings (Baro Başkanı), Mieke Van Laer, Oliver Stein, Robin Bronlet, Selma Benkhelifa, Thomas Mitevoy, Veronique Laurent, Jan Buelens (Antwerpen), Jo Dereymaeker, Miriam Tarwe (Charloi), Louise Laperche (Liege), Marianne Petre (Mons), Xavier Van Gils,  Luis Carlos, Dainela Muradas Aantunes, Jose Fernando Moro, Victoria Figueiredo Moro, Henrik C. Winkel (Copanhagen Denmark), Thorkild Hoyer (Klampenborg), Alice Becker (Paris-Fransa), Antoine Comte, Celine Moreau, Christian Charriere (Bournazel), David Appelbaum, David Andic, Eduardo Mariotti, Elsa Marcel, Emile Bonvarlet, Etienne Ambroselli, François Devedijan, Hanna Rajbenbach, Juan Prosper, Jean-Louis Malterre, Marie Malterre, Matteo Bonaglia, Raphael Kempf, Servane Meyniard, Xavier Sauvignet, Antoine Chaudey (Lille), Muriel Ruef, Camille Vannier (Seine Saint Denis), Guillaume Arnaud, Chloe Chalot (Rouen), Claudine Page (Toulouse), Clemence Durand, Julien Brel, Coline Boullon (Creteil), Zerrin Bataray (Vienne), Carolin Kaufmann (Berlin-Almanya), Dr. Gregor Gysi, Ursula Groos, Lukas Teune, Heinz R. Schmitt (Duisburg), Marvin Hegermann, Thomas Schmidt (Düsseldorf), Frank Jasenki (Essen), Frank Stierlin, Peter Klusmann, Peter Weispfenning, Roland Meister, Yener Sözen, Milan Martin (Frankfurt), Stephan Kuhn, Berthold Fresenius, Rene Bahns, Harald Schandl, Norman Paech, Dr. Heinz Jürgen Schneider, Joachim Schaller, Ulrike Donat, Heike Gesweid (Hamm), Bernd Bruntrup, Birgit Landgraf, Anna Magdalena Busl (Köln), Angela Furmaniak (Lörrach), Felix Briesenick (Münih), Julia Bailey (Nürnberg), Michael Brenner, Peter Holzschurer, Yunus Ziyal, Carolin Helmecke, Rita Belter, Maria Kalın (Stutgart), Oswald Tübingen, Gerhard Strauch (Wiesbaden), Themistoklis Tzimas (Selanik), Giota Massouridou (Atina), Yiannis Rachiotis, Alastair Lyons (Solicitors), Amos Waldman (Barrister), Barones Helena Kenney Qc, Prof.Bill Bowring President of Eldh, Conor Gearty Qc, Debra Stanislawsky, Declan Owens President of Haldane, Deepa Govindarajan Driver, Frances Webber (Barrister), Gareth Peirce (Solicitors), Gillian Higgins, Isabella Forshall Qc, Liz Davies Qc, Lord John Hendy Qc, Margaret Owen Obe (Barrister), Margo Munro Kerr (Barrister), Martha Jean Baker, Maya Thomas Davis, Michael Good (Barrister), Mike Mansfield Qc (Barrister), Quincy Whitaker (Barrister), Sir Geoffrey Bindman Qc, Wendy Pettifer, Johan Mühren (Purmerend), G.E.M. Later (Den Haag), Symone Gaasbeek Wielinga (Noord), Hans Gaasbeek, Tamara Buruma (Amsterdam), Sanjay Singhvi (Bombay), Barbara Sp İnell (Bologna), Marilena Barbagallo (Catania), Nunzia Scandurra, Paolo Sol Lileho (Floransa), Michele Paass İone, Emilio Robott (Genova), Sandro Valbusa, Eleonora Forna (Grosseto), Lorenzo Trucco (Mantova), Carmela Maria Cordaro (Messina), Carmelo Picciotto, Dainela Toro (Milano), Gilberto Pagan, Giovanni Motta, Nicola Guidice, Fausto Gianell (Modena), Carmine Malinconico (Napoli), Margherita D’andrea, Danilo Risi, Aurora D’agost İno (Padova), Carlo Cappellar, Chiara Roverso, Dora Rizzardo, Francesca Venturin, Marco Ferrero, Marco Pagg, Dayla Br İgant (Parma), Musso Calogero, Livio Cancell İer, Ezio Menz İone (Pisa), Aldo Ritacco (Roma), Alessandra Coata, Alessandro Iannell, Amedeo Bosca İno, Andrea Forte, Antonia Di Maggio, Antonio Stellato, Arturo Salerni, Cesare Antetomaso, Claudio Giang İacomo, Cosmo Alvaro, Danile Leppe, Fabio Marcelli, Fabrizio De Sanctis, Fabrizio Presiosi, Francesca De Prosperis, Gabriele Moreschini, Gianluca Dicandia, Giovanna Francesca Silva, Giulia Vescia, Giuliana Rando, Luigi Antonio Barulli, Luigi Galloni, Liliana Marcantonio, Lorenzo Tardella, Marco Cavallone, Marco Faragni, Maria Rosario Damizia, Mario Antonio Angelelo, Marzia Guadagni, Michela Arricale, Michela Stefania, Patrizia Angiari, Riccardo Faranda, Rosaria Marchioni, Rosaria Marchioni, Salvo Graci, Sara Crescenzi, Silvia Calderoni, Simonetta Crisci, Sofia Guerreri, Stefano Greco, Tamara Barracca, Tatiana Montella, Valentina Pieri, Veronica Scali, Gianluca Vitale (Torino), Marco Ugo Melano, Roberto Lamacchia, Roberto Brizio, Silvia Manderino (Venedik),Caterina Camposano, Doris Genchi, Guiseppe Romano, Maria Cristina Carta, Stefano Mannironi, Jun Sasamoto (Tokyo Japonya), Dr.Joses J. Moses Ct South (Africa), Krish Govender, Kyunguk Jang South (Kore), Alejandro Gamez (Madrid İspanya), Amalia Alejandre, Ángeles Chınarro Pulıdo, Begona Lalana, Carmen Garcia, Eric Sanz, Fermin Breton, Jaime Sanz De Bremond, Javier Rubıo, Jose Maria Larumbe, Jose Vıcente, Juan Mantılla, Maria Galan, Maria Jesus Diaz Veıga, Marta Herrero, Natanael Tejerına, Natalia Bosch, Pedro Rodrguez, Suena Jesus Maria Benıto, Alfonso Zenon (Biscay Barosu Bask), Arantza Isasmendı, Endika Garai Buztıo, Iñigo Santxo Urıarte, Joxean Lozano Murga, Eneko Comapnys Sılva (Navarre Barosu), Imanol Karrera, María Ortega Marcos, Jon Etxabe (Gipuzkoa Barosu), Urko Aiartza Azurtza, Yolanda Lz. de Luzurıaga, Zigor Reızabal,Sara Arri Alvaro, Aiert Larrarte, Aitor Amutio Aranzeta, Amaia Izko, Bea Ilardia, Emma Valiente, Endika Garai, Elixabete Moral Anes, Eraitz Saez de Egilaz, Iñigo Santxo, Irma Orozko, Jaione Carrera, Jone Goirizelaia, Joxean Lozan, Julen Arzuaga, Laura Anido Sanchez, Leire Onzain Sese, Luis Barinagarrementeria, Nahia Sanz Gardeazabal, Oscar Sanchez, Saioa Vera Ranea, Sergey Aresti Arteaga, Txema Matanzas, Aratz Estonba, Adrià Font (Barcelona Catalan), August Gil Matamala, David Gil Pujol, Jordi Pujol Moıx, Juan Miguel Ortiz Reparaz, Marion Hohn Abad, Marta Clapés Cascon, Simeó Miquel Roe, Robert Sabata Grıpekoven, Amanda Szemberg, Bern Switzerland, Christoph Schneeberger, Dana Rüger, Julia Roder , Krisna Mühlet, Martin Dreifuss, Martin Klaus, Rahel Beyeler, Sandra Künzi, Thomas Tribolet, Verena Gessler, Willi Egloff,Emma Liden (Cenevre), Mafalda D’alfonso, Olivier Peter, Raphaël Roux, Valerie Debernevoli, Edelmann Manuela (Fribourg), Sebastien Pedroli, Sophie Brady, Dieter Roth (Liestal), Christophe Tafelmacher (Lozan), Jean Michel Dolivo, Jonathan Rutschmann, Raphaël Mahaim, Thanh-My Tran-Nhu, Iglio Rezzonico Immacolata (Lugano)Angela John (Luzern), Antigona Selmonaj, Mathias Buchmann, Moritz Portmann, Nora Lıpp, Rahel Ulrıch, Robin Bareth, Sara Burrı, Selina Koç, Yara Eggerschwıler, Cristina Clemente (Murolto), Bruno Beeler (Schwyz),Bruno Frick, Martin Derttling, Willi Metzger (Thurgau),Thomas Locher (Zug) Werner A. Räber, Anderas Tobler( Zürich),Manuella Schiller, Marcel Bosonnet, Necmettin Şahin, Peter Frei, Peter Nideröst, Yevgenii Gerasyemenko (Ukrayna)Beth S. Lyons (ABD), Jeanne Mirer, Marjorie Cohn, Vanessa Ramos Aaj, Jeffrey Frank (İllionis) Kerry Mclean (New York),Eileen Weitzman,  Audrey Bomse (New Jersey) Ricard P. Koch (Calofornia) David L. Mandel, IBAHRI International Bar Association's Human Rights Institut.