Turkish president calls for an end to hunger strikes

Turkish president calls for an end to hunger strikes

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish president calls for an end to hunger strikes

President Abdullah Gül. AA photo

President Abdullah Gül has renewed his calls for the termination of hunger strikes staged by hundreds of prisoners in prisons throughout Turkey as reports become public that a number of prisoners have already been hospitalized or placed in critical condition. 

“I want to make a call to everyone for an immediate end to these hunger strikes. [Hunger strikes] do not contribute [to a solution], but deepen the problems,” Gül told reporters late Monday during the Republic Day reception.

More than 600 prisoners are currently participating in a hunger strike in protest of the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, 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.

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. His brother Mehmet Öcalan has met with him twice over the past year, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin previously revealed. Government sources said Öcalan’s lawyers will not be allowed onto the island, but that family members could see Öcalan upon submitting a formal request.

“This [hunger strike] is a very serious issue,” Gül said, adding that a substantial approach was required to deal with the terror issue and the Kurdish question.

On the issue of unnecessary police violence used against protesters who wanted to celebrate Republic Day, Gül said he felt sorry for the violent picture that occurred during the rally in Ankara.

“As far as I observed unwanted developments happened. I hope these will not occur again,” he said. “Everybody will celebrate the holiday the way they want to do. Everybody is to celebrate it without breaking general rules and disturbing others.”