Turkish police detain 27 over sit-in supporting hunger strikes

Turkish police detained 27 people in the county’s Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakır over their sit-in protest in support of hunger strikes over the jail conditions for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, independent news site Diken reported on Saturday.

The 27 were members of the Confederation of Public Employees' Trade Unions (KESK), who were holding a sit-in in support of ongoing hunger strikes over the isolation of Öcalan, attempted to release a statement, but were met with police intervention before being detained, the site said.

Öcalan, the leader of the PKK, an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years, has been serving a life sentence on İmralı ısland since 1999. The PKK leader has been barred from meeting his lawyers and has had only limited family visits since the collapse of a peace process between the state and the PKK in 2015 that aimed to end three decades of conflict.

The hunger strike in support of Öcalan was launched by the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, an umbrella organisation for Kurdish groups and a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Leyla Güven in November. Güven has since been released and is continuing the strike at home.  

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food, however, take vitamins and salt and sugar solutions.

There are some 3000 prisoners currently on a partial hunger strike, including a number of HDP lawmakers, according to the Human Rights Association.

Turkish authorities accuse the HDP of being linked to the PKK, a charge the party denies.