HDP deputy: 162 inmates join hunger strike in Turkey

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HDP deputy Meral Danış Bektaş

One hundred sixty-two 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 deputy said on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

Meral Danış Beştaş, an MP from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said her imprisoned colleague, Leyla Güven, has reached a “critical stage” in her hunger strike. She has petitioned the Turkish parliament’s human rights investigatory committee to intervene.

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

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

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

Güven, 55, has been in prison since Jan. 31, 2018 on charges of 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 terrorism-related charges if convicted.

Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, (PKK), has been serving a life sentence on İmralı island since 1999. His group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

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

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