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Mar 04 2019

EU calls on Turkey to ensure hunger-striker MP's safety

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Turkey to take steps to ensure the safety of pro-Kurdish member of parliament Leyla Güven, who has been on a partial hunger strike for 117 days in protest at the treatment of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, news website Bianet reported on Monday.

Güven, the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, an umbrella organisation for Kurdish groups, and a member of parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched an indefinite hunger strike protest on Nov. 7, 2018 in protest at Öcalan not being allowed visits from his lawyers since July 2016, and only very limited family visits.

"We called on Turkish authorities to take steps to ensure Leyla Güven's safety," Mogherini said in response to a letter from European parliamentarian Martina Anderson.

Güven was freed from jail on Jan. 25, but has continued her partial hunger strike.

"Considering her deteriorating health, her recent release from prison is a positive step," Mogherini said.

There are some 290 prisoners on similar partial hungers strikes across Turkey over the treatment of Öcalan, including a number of HDP lawmakers. Turkish authorities accuse the HDP of being linked to the PKK, a charge the party denies.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food, but take water fortified with salt, sugar and vitamins to prolong the strike.

Mogherini also said the union was ready to help the Turkish government resume a peace process with the PKK, which has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Turkey, the EU and the United States all designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

"The EU believes absolutely that a sustainable solution in southeastern Turkey must be based on a reliable political process and is ready to offer help to return to a peace process," she said.

Captured in 1999, Öcalan is the sole prisoner on the island of İmralı in the Sea of Marmara.