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Kurdish party: 162 inmates on hunger strike in Turkey

January 9, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Scores of prisoners across Turkey have joined a hunger strike in a show of solidarity with an imprisoned opposition legislator who has been refusing food since November, a pro-Kurdish party legislator said Wednesday.

Meral Danis Bestas, a legislator from the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, said her imprisoned colleague, Leyla Guven, has reached “a critical stage” in her hunger strike. She has petitioned the Turkish parliament’s human rights investigatory committee to intervene.

Guven launched the hunger strike to press authorities to allow family members and lawyers to visit jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, whom she says is unlawfully being kept in isolation in a prison on an island off Istanbul.

Bestas said 162 other prisoners in 36 prisons across Turkey — 27 of them women — have jointed the hunger strike.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but take vitamins and sugared water.

Guven, 55, has been in prison since Jan. 31, 2018 on charges including allegedly provoking hatred with statements opposing a Turkish military operation that drove out Syrian Kurdish militia from a northern Syrian enclave. One of 10 HDP legislators currently in jail, she faces up to 31 years in prison on terror-related charges if convicted.

Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, is serving a life prison term on Imrali island since 1999. His group is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its western allies.

Hundreds of Kurdish inmates ended a similar hunger strike in 2012, heeding a call by Ocalan.

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