Practising religion in prison: Sanatkar v Romania

In Sanatkar v Romania [2015] ECHR 688 the applicant, Hakan Sanatkar, a Turkish national and a Muslim who lived in Dobroieşti, Romania, had been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for attempted murder. He complained before the ECtHR that the conditions of his detention in Giurgiu and Bucharest-Jilava prisons were in breach of his Convention rights. Relying on Article 3 ECHR (inhuman or degrading treatment), he complained of prison overcrowding: allegedly, in Bucharest-Jilava Prison 38 prisoners shared a 45 sq m cell fitted with triple bunk-beds. He also complained of a violation of Article 9 (thought, conscience and religion), alleging that because of the overcrowding he was unable to spread out his prayer mat in the cell in order to fulfil his religious duty of prayer and that his requests for meals that were compatible with the requirements of Islam received no response. On the Article 9 point, the Turkish Government claimed that Mr Sanatkar had not brought the matters of which he now complained to the attention of the judge who had investigated his original complaints.

The Third Section ECtHR noted that there had been numerous previous cases relating to overcrowding in Bucharest-Jilava prison and upheld his complaint of violation of Article 3. However, his complaint of a violation of Article 9 was rejected for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Practising religion in prison: Sanatkar v Romania" in Law & Religion UK, 17 July 2015,

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