Turkish police detain seven in south-east over sit-in supporting hunger strikers

Turkish police in the county’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakır detained seven people on Sunday, whose relatives have been in a partial hunger strike for months in protest of Turkish state's treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish news site Artı Gerçek reported. 

The group wanted to hold a sit-in protest in Diyarbakır's Koşuyolu Park in support of ongoing hunger strikes, but were met with police intervention before entering the park, Artı Gerçek said. 

The police blockaded the park, assaulted the relatives of the hunger strikers and detained seven of them, handcuffing behind the back, according to the news site. 

On Saturday, the police detained some 27 members of the Confederation of Public Employees' Trade Unions who wanted to support the hunger strikers.  

The hunger strike in support of Öcalan was launched by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Leyla Güven in November when she was in prison for her criticism of Turkey’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara considers an offshoot of the PKK. 

Güven was released in January and is continuing the strike at home. There are some 3000 prisoners currently on a partial hunger strike, including a number of HDP lawmakers, according to the Human Rights Association. 

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

Öcalan is one of the founders of the PKK which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, as well as the European Union and the United States. 

The PKK leader, serving a life sentence on Imralı island since 1999, 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.