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Jailed Kurdish Leader Ocalan Visited by Brother in Turkish Prison

The jailed leader of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group was allowed to meet his brother in prison on an island near Istanbul on Saturday, after a hunger strike led by a pro-Kurdish party MP against his prison conditions.

Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, as well as the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.), has been serving a life sentence on the Imrali island prison since his capture in 1999.

He met with his brother Mehmet for the first time in more than two years on Saturday, Pervin Buldan, co-chairwoman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), tweeted, adding that Ocalan was in “good health”.

The meeting was also confirmed to AFP by Ocalan’s nephew and Urfa MP Omer Ocalan, who said his uncle remained in isolation.

“As his family, we demand that Ocalan is subjected to the same rights like other prisoners… He is entitled to meet his family once in every week,” he said.

Jailed HDP lawmaker Leyla Guven launched a hunger strike on November 8 to pressure the Turkish government into allowing lawyers and family members to visit Ocalan.

Her party said the 55-year-old was suffering a “life-threatening” medical condition as her hunger strike enters its 66th day.

Guven’s action was supported by more than 150 prisoners across Turkey in a show of solidarity.

She was arrested in January 2018 for her opposition to Turkey’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara considers an offshoot of the PKK.

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

Turkish police on Saturday blocked several dozen demonstrators including HDP lawmakers from staging a march to the prison where Guven is being held in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

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


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