No hunger strikes, says PM amid rallies

No hunger strikes, says PM amid rallies

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
No hunger strikes, says PM amid rallies

Police intervenes into a group of 50 students from Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), who stage a protest to support the hunger strikes. DAILY NEWS photo/Selahattin Sönmez

Rebuffing protests and international calls, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said there was no hunger strike in Turkish prisons, while Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said 683 inmates were staging hunger strikes as the protest entered its 50th day Oct. 31.

“There’s only one person who is on a death fast in [a Turkish prison]. But the [Peace and Democracy Party - BDP] members who tell them to die are having lamb kebab. There is no hunger strike. … This is definite showing off. My minister went over there and observed them. Half of them already gave up by filing petitions. All our health personnel are there [now] to help the rest,” he said at a press meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday in Berlin.

Erdoğan was referring to Ergin’s visit to Sincan Prison on Oct. 24 to meet with inmates staging an indefinite hunger strike. After his visit, Ergin called on prisoners to end their hunger strikes while promising the fulfillment of one of the strikers’ three main demands.

More than 600 prisoners are currently participating in a hunger strike in protest of the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Marmara Sea. The protestors also demand restrictions on the use of Kurdish language in courts be lifted and mother-tongue education. Öcalan’s lawyers have not been allowed on İmralı island for the last 14 months. Öcalan’s lawyers last met with him Oct. 12, 2011.

Meanwhile, clashes between the security forces and a group of students erupted yesterday when the group attempted to march from the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) campus to the headquarters of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to express their support to the hunger strikes. Police used pepper gas and pressurized water to disperse the group of about 50 students.
Speaking yesterday after meeting with his German counterpart Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger in Ankara, Ergin said 683 prisoners are staging a hunger strike in 66 prisons. Meanwhile, Parliament’s Human Rights Examination Commission will visit Bolu Prison, where 20 inmates are staging a hunger strike, today.

International petition

Separately, an international group of social scientists including Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler and Michael Taussig have launched a petition campaign calling on the Turkish government to address the demands of hunger strikers. “Elementary humanity requires that the just and desperate plea of these prisoners for dialogue should be answered quickly and appropriately, without delay,” Chomsky said. Petitioners lent their full support to the prisoners, saying that their demands are based on basic human rights.