Turkey court orders release of hunger-striking Kurdish MP

Leyla Guven launched hunger strike on November 8 in protest against jail conditions for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

A supporter of pro-Kurdish HDP holds a picture of jailed lawmaker Leyla Guven, during a demonstration in solidarity with her, in Diyarbakir
Guven was arrested in January 2018 for her criticism of Turkey's military operation in Afrin, northern Syria [Reuters]

A Turkish court has ordered the supervised release of an arrested legislator from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) who is seriously ill as a result of her 11-week-long hunger strike.

Leyla Guven, 55, started the hunger strike on November 8 in protest against the prison conditions for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, and her deteriorating health has sparked concerns and rallies to support her cause.

The MP will be monitored after she is freed, the court in Diyarbakir in the Kurdish majority southeast said on Friday, although few further details of the terms of her release were available. 

Guven, whose party has said she is suffering from a “life-threatening” medical condition, did not attend the hearing, according to an AFP journalist in the court.

She was arrested in January 2018 for her criticism of Turkey‘s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish armed group that Ankara considers an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The MP started the hunger strike in the prison and her action was supported by more than 150 prisoners across Turkey in a show of solidarity. 

Guven’s hunger strike was aimed at pressuring the government into allowing lawyers and family members to visit PKK leader Ocalan, who has been serving a life sentence on an island prison near Istanbul since his capture in 1999.

Ocalan met his brother Mehmet for the first time in more than two years on January 12. The details of that meeting were not made public.

In 2012, hundreds of Kurdish prisoners ended a 68-day hunger strike after Ocalan urged them to do so.

Guven’s HDP party remains under the scrutiny of Turkish authorities, which accuse it of links to the PKK. Several of its MPs are behind bars, including former party leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Source: AFP