Turkey: CPT delegation visits Imrali Prison after three years

Turkey: CPT delegation visits Imrali Prison after three years
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PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is kept under severe confinement in Imrali, held incommunicado for the last 19 months.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe (CoE), announced on Monday that a CPT delegation carried out an "ad hoc visit" to Turkey from 20 to 29 September 2022, and that the delegation also visited Imrali F-type High-Security Prison, where Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is incarcerated under severe solitary confinement.

CPT said that the delegation examined in Imrali "the treatment and conditions of detention of all (four) prisoners currently held in the establishment."

"In this connection, particular attention was paid to the communal activities offered to the prisoners and their contacts with the outside world," it added.

In the course of its visit, the delegation met senior Turkish officials including the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and held consultations with officials, including the Deputy Minister of Justice Akin Gurlek, on the implementation of long-standing recommendations made by the CPT concerning Imrali Prison.

Ibrahim Bilmez, lawyer of Abdullah Ocalan, told Medya News:

"It is very important that the CPT visited Imrali Island Prison. It was one of our central demands that CPT must, as quickly as possible visit Imrali. It is not the first time they have visited Imrali, CPT has visited Imrali eight times and based on these visits they shared many recommendations in regards to treatment of prisoners and communication with the outside world, so the important aspect is not only the actual visit of Imrali but whether the previous recommendations have been implemented by the Turkish government."

Rights violations in Imrali

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, and three other prisoners who are incarcerated in the island of Imrali have been under severe isolation for years.

The last contact with Ocalan occured in March 2021, when he spoke with his brother Mehmet Ocalan on the phone very briefly. The conversation was cut off abruptly after only a few minutes. His lawyers last received information about him in August 2019.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said in March 2014 that Turkey violated the rights of Ocalan and other political prisoners both due to the inhumane conditions of severe solitary confinement, and also due to the aggravated life imprisonment in Turkey being a sentence disregarding any possibility of conditional release.

In early December 2021, the CoE Committee of Ministers reviewed the cases of Ocalan and other political prisoners known as the "Gurban Group", in which Turkey has not yet implemented rulings by the ECHR.

The Committee of Ministers concluded that they recalled that the violation found by the ECHR required the adoption of measures by Turkey "that would allow the review of any aggravated life imprisonment sentence after a certain minimum term with a possibility of the release of the life prisoner."

The previous visit by a CPT delegation to Imrali took place in 2019.