Jailed Kurdish leader seeks support from MEPs for lawmaker on hunger strike

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In this handout photo provided by the pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP), former party leader Selahattin Demirtas and current Turkish presidential candidate, sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. The HDP announced the nomination of Demirtas for the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey, scheduled for June 24, 2018. Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence on charges of leading a terror organization. It's unclear if Turkey's electoral board will approve Demirtas's candidacy. / AFP PHOTO / Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) / HANDOUT

Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş called on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to speak out in support of deputy Leyla Güven, who has been on a hunger strike for over a hundred days, the Diken newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), sent out letters to members of the European Parliament as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

In his letter Demirtaş solicited support for the cause of HDP deputy Güven and of those who joined her on the hunger strike.

“The only demand put forward by my friends who are currently facing grave peril is the removal of the isolation on Abdullah Öcalan in order to ensure rule of law, peace and dialogue in Turkey,” Demirtaş wrote.

Güven had gone on a hunger strike 104 days ago while she was in prison on terrorism-related charges.

The hunger strike is a protest of what many HDP politicians refer to as the “heavy lockdown” of Öcalan, leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Güven was hospitalized last week due to her deteriorating health but was subsequently sent home after rejecting medical treatment.

“I believe you will hear the cries of hundreds of people and millions of others who support them,” said Demirtaş, who himself been imprisoned since November 2016.

Öcalan has been behind bars since 1999 as the convicted leader of the PKK.

The PKK has waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that claimed the lives of more than some 40,000 people.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

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