Skip to main content

Turkish court orders release of hunger-striking Kurdish MP

Leyla Guven, a detained MP of the People's Democratic Party, has been on hunger strike since November over prison conditions of PKK leader
On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated at a rally in Diyarbakir in support of Guven (AFP)

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

Leyla Guven 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 are yet available.

The jailed MP launched a hunger strike on 8 November in protest over the prison conditions for the jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Guven's deteriorating health has sparked concerns and rallies to support her cause.

The 55-year-old, whose party has said is suffering a "life-threatening" medical condition, did not attend the hearing, according to an AFP journalist in the court.

Guven was arrested in January 2018 for her criticism of Turkey's military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara considers an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

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

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated at a rally in Diyarbakir in support of Guven.

HDP leader jailed

Guven's HDP party has faced a crackdown by Turkish authorities, which accuse it of links to the PKK. 

Several of its MPs are behind bars, including former party leader Selahattin Demirtas, while hundreds of local politicians from the party have also been arrested. A number of elected mayors from the party in the mostly Kurdish south-east have been replaced by government appointees.

Guven's hunger strike was aimed at pressuring the government into allowing lawyers and family members to visit 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 12 January. The details of that meeting have not yet been made public.

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