Kurd convicted of deadly bombing kills himself in prison in protest

A Kurd convicted in 2007 of killing a police officer in a bombing in southeast Turkey killed himself on Sunday night in protest of the Turkish state’s treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), reported the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency.

Zülküf Gezen, a prisoner in northwestern Tekirdağ who had begun a partial hunger strike on March 1 with more than 160 Kurdish prisoners and several pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers, hanged himself in his cell.

Gezen had been sentenced to 104 years in prison in 2007 on charges of killing one police officer and injuring five others in a bomb attack in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakır, according to Turkish pro-government daily Sabah. He was accused of being a member of the PKK, which has led an armed insurgency in Turkey for three decades and is labelled a terrorist group by the government, Sabah said.

His lawyer said he had killed himself to protest the treatment of Öcalan, according to Mezopotamya. Captured by Turkey in 1999, Öcalan has been jailed on Imralı Island since, where he has been barred from meeting his lawyers and been permitted limited family visits since the collapse of a peace process between the state and the PKK in mid-2015.

Authorities brought Gezen's body to Diyarbakır, where he was born, without the consent of his family, Mezopotamya Agency said. At the request of Gezen’s family, some HDP lawmakers tried to receive the body at Diyarbakır Airport in order to hold a funeral. The police refused to hand the body over to the HDP officials, and only allowed the family to bury their son at dawn, without a ceremony and attendance limited to family members.

Following Gezen's death, the HDP said on Twitter that the government should immediately stop the isolation of the PKK leader to prevent further deaths.

"Before suffering from similar situations, we call the government to act responsibly and to fulfil demands on removing solitary confinement, and we call the public to be sensitive. Hereafter, the government that does not take a step will be politically responsible for the all upcoming predicament and loss of lives."

Ankara accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathy and acting in the interest of the PKK. Several top party officials are currently behind bars.