Rights Group: 3,000 Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Turkey

Turkish authorities have not commented publicly on the hunger strikes

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia April 8, 2019.
\ POOL/ REUTERS

The number of prisoners who have joined a hunger strike to press Turkish authorities to end the isolation in jail of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has increased to close to 3,000, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Human Rights Association head Ozturk Turkdogan told The Associated Press that a total of 2,983 people in 90 prisons across Turkey are refusing food in protest of jail conditions for Ocalan, whose family members and lawyers have reportedly been denied visits.

Pro-Kurdish legislator Leyla Guven launched the hunger strike from prison in November. She has since been released and is continuing the strike at home. Two former pro-Kurdish legislators are among the thousands of prisoners who have joined Guven's strike over the following months.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but take vitamins and salt and sugar solutions, which help prolong life.

Turkdogan said 15 of the hunger strikers are now also refusing vitamins.

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

Turkdogan's group says Ocalan has not seen his lawyers since 2011 while pro-Kurdish legislators last visited him in 2015. His brother was allowed a half-hour visit on Jan. 12.

Ocalan has in the past conveyed messages to his rebel group through his lawyers.

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

Turkish authorities have not commented publicly on the hunger strikes.