Inmate in eastern Turkey kills herself in protest of treatment of PKK leader

A convict in Turkey’s eastern province of Erzurum killed herself in protest of the Turkish state’s treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), left-wing Artı Gerçek news site reported on Sunday.

Twenty-three year old Zehra Sağlam, who had been behind bars for three years, began a hunger strike on Dec. 16, joining more than 160 Kurdish prisoners and several pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers protesting the isolation of Öcalan, the site said.

Sağlam is the third Turkish convict to have died behind bars while protesting the treatment of Öcalan since the hunger strike began last year.

Captured by Turkey in 1999, Öcalan is serving a life sentence on Imralı Island, 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, an armed group that war in Turkey for over 30 years, in mid-2015.

The death of Sağlam follows those of inmates Zülküf Gezen ve Ayten Beçet earlier this month.

Gezen, who 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, took his own life on March 18. 

Beçet also took her own life on March 23 in the women's prison in Kocaeli's Gebze district in protest of Ankara’s treatment of the 70-year-old PKK leader.

HDP lawmaker and co-president of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Leyva Güven has led the protest in support of Öcalan and is on the 137th day of her hunger strike.

Turkish interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has accused Güven and her supporters of ethnic provocation over the strike.