Some 350 lawyers from 22 countries have applied to Turkey’s Justice Ministry requesting to meet with jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.
The last time Öcalan was allowed to see his lawyers was on Aug. 7, 2019 after being unable to meet with them for eight years. Since then, lawyers have filed more than a hundred petitions to see their clients, but they were all turned down.
As for his family, Öcalan was allowed to talk with his brother Mehmet Öcalan on March 25, 2021 on the phone. This was the last time that he held contact with a family member.
The lawyers also applied to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), Mezopotamya News Agency reported.
Some 350 lawyers on Sept. 14 held a press conference at the Brussels European Press Club with regards to their application.
Reading the joint statement, the Union of Lawyers for Democracy (SAD) chair Hélène Debaty said that the contact ban on imprisoned members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), including Abdullah Öcalan, on the İmralı Island is “discriminatory.”
Georges Henri Beauthier from the Paris and Brussels Bar Associations said in the meeting that the right of lawyers to fulfill their duties was hindered despite contracts.
“A lawyer should have all the rights regarding the defense of their client. We are here to defend the right of lawyers to perform their duties. Lawyers are not here to carry a political message. They are here for their clients to express themselves. If this is prevented, international agreements are meaningless,” Beauthier said.
Selma Benkhelifa from the Progress Lawyers Network expressed that the Turkish government must comply with the law.
“As lawyers, we are responsible for ensuring that legal decisions are made. We cannot physically do anything. Rule of law means that states respect the decisions of the judiciary. However, Turkey does not respect the decisions taken by the law in any way. In 2014, the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) ruled that there was torture on the İmralu Island. They decided that the isolation was torture. We won this case before, and Turkey was convicted," Benkhelifa said.
“The ECHR said that every person should have the right to hope. Öcalan has a right to hope. It is also important for him to meet with his lawyers. Turkey is blocking the right to hope today. Turkey is hypocritical. Because Turkey made a promise before the ECHR. However, Turkey tries to justify the isolation imposed on Öcalan on the grounds of security. Turkey says that Öcalan has too many enemies and will protect him from attacks by isolating him completely. You cannot make anyone believe this,” Benkhelifa added.