Turkish strikers called on to end campaign

Nov. 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Pro-Kurdish lawmakers and prisoners were called on to abandon a hunger strike that Wednesday entered its 64th day, a deputy leader said.

More than 700 inmates were joined recently by pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey in a hunger strike to pressure the government to end the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party. Known by its Kurdish initials PKK, Ocalan's organization has waged a guerrilla campaign in Turkey in support of more Kurdish rights since the 1980s.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc called for an end to the strike, saying the Turkish community has heard their appeals.

"I am insistently calling the hunger strikers to give up," he was quoted by Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman as saying. "You are valuable to us."

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz expressed similar concerns in a recent letter sent to Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin.

Ocalan, 64, was captured in 1999 and was subsequently sentenced to death. That was commuted to life in prison when Turkey did away with the death penalty. He is the only prisoner in a remote island detention center. His lawyers say they haven't been able to meet with him in more than a year.

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