Lawyers apply once again to meet with Öcalan

Abdullah Öcalan's legal team has applied for a visit permit to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and the management of Imrali Island Prison. The last client meeting took place three years ago.

Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan's lawyers, Rezan Sarıca, Faik Özgür Erol, Raziye Öztürk and Emran Emekçi, have once again applied to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and the management of Imrali F-Type High Security Prison to meet with their client who has not been heard from for 17 months.

On March 14, 2021, rumours spread on social media claiming that Öcalan had died in prison. Immediately, protests were organised around the world demanding an urgent visit by the lawyers to Imrali.

On March 25, 2021, Öcalan was able to talk with his brother Mehmet Öcalan. The short phone conversation happened about a year after a previous call, on 27 April 2020, and it is the first time since then that Öcalan had actual contact with someone outside.

The phone conversation was held under the supervision of the Urfa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and was very short. The call was interrupted pretty soon. Likewise, the phone call by another prisoner on Imrali, Hamili Yıldırım, with his family was also abruptly interrupted. It was reported that the other two prisoners, Ömer Hayri Konar and Veysi Aktaş, did not make the phone call they were offered to protest isolation.

Lawyers of Öcalan were able to meet their client on May 2-22, June 12-18 and August 7, 2019, for the first time in 8 years. Since August 7, 2019, all applications have gone unanswered.

After Öcalan’s lawyers applied to a Bursa court for an “urgent meeting” on November 22, it came out that two further bans had been issued against the Kurdish leader. The Bursa court rejected the application, citing a 6-month visitation dated October 12 as a reason.

The court also rejected the application of the families for a meeting with their relatives, citing a 3-month family visitation ban issued by the Disciplinary Board of the Imrali Penal Institution dated August 18, 2021.

The Imrali Delegation, which was able to hold talks with Öcalan within the framework of peace negotiations, has not been allowed to visit the prison island since April 2015. Since the last visit of the team of lawyers on August 7, 2019, the Turkish authorities have not responded to any of the continuous requests for visits.

The Turkish authorities use the "roadmap for negotiations" submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 as the justification for the ban on visits by Abdullah Öcalan's team of lawyers.

On the other hand, the investigation launched in 2012 against lawyers of Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan, Rezan Sarıca, Ali Maden, Baran Doğan, Cengiz Yürekli, İnan Akmeşe, Mahmut Taşçı and Mehmet Selim Okçuoğlu, was picked up again at the beginning of 2021.

The lawyers went to the prosecutor's office and gave a statement. After the statements were taken, the indictment prepared by the prosecutor's office was accepted by the Istanbul 33rd High Criminal Court. Lawyers are accused, among other things, of "membership of a terrorist organization", and they are expected to appear in court in September.

In the indictment, where lawyer meetings with Öcalan were shown as a criminal element, the lawyers' refusal to accept the accusations against them was also cited as a criminal element. In addition, while lawyer Cengiz Yürekli's use of his right to remain silent was shown as an element of crime, phone calls made by detainees with their families due to their profession were also considered a crime.

The most interesting subject of accusation in the indictment was that statements such as "isolation is being applied to Öcalan" and "lawyers have not been allowed to see him for 300 days" were cited as criminal elements. These were sentences contained in statements made by the lawyers to the press.