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2 more jailed Kurdish politicians to start hunger strike protesting visitor ban on PKK leader

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Former Kurdish deputies Selma Irmak and Sabahat Tuncel announced on Monday that they would join a hunger strike led by deputy Leyla Güven to protest a visitor ban imposed on the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

All three former MPs are currently in pretrial detention.

The lawyers for the deputies made a statement in front of Kandıra Prison asking for an end to the isolation from the outside world of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The former deputies vowed to continue the hunger strike until the visitor ban on Öcalan is lifted.

On Saturday Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Pervin Buldan announced that the jailed leader of the PKK met with his brother Mehmet Öcalan at İmralı Prison, the first visitor he has been allowed since 2016.

Speaking at an HDP event in İstanbul, Buldan said Öcalan is enjoying good health and that they would provide further details about the meeting in a few days.

“The fact that this meeting was authorized doesn’t mean that the ban on [Öcalan] receiving visitors has been lifted,” Buldan added.

“Our client Abdullah Öcalan met with his brother Mehmet Öcalan in the scope of his right to enjoy familial visits. This was his first contact with his family during the period of absolute isolation in effect since September 2016,” said the Asrın law firm in a written statement.

HDP members also claim that Öcalan has been denied visitors since the last time he met with his brother in September 2016 and is isolated from the outside world.

HDP deputy Güven has been on a hunger strike for 66 days, demanding the removal of the prohibition.

In September 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) dismissed a complaint by Öcalan, claiming ill treatment in prison.

Öcalan has been jailed in Turkey since 1999.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched an insurgency in 1984. It is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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