Legal timeline

Öcalan’s imprisonment


  • 15 February, capture in Kenya
  • 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 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

late 2008-2011

  • 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 halted


  • 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 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 becomes an excuse for 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 cause widespread fears, he is allowed a phone call to his brother – which is cut short after less than four minutes


  • September, ninth visit by CPT. It will be at least a year before the report is released and doubts have been raised over whether the delegation actually met with Öcalan. The CPT refuses either to conform or deny this, or to give any information on Öcalan’s situation.