Turkey court orders release of hunger striking Kurdish MP

Diyarbakir (Turkey) (AFP) –


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

Leyla Guven, 55, launched a hunger strike on November 8 in protest at the prison conditions Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan faces.

Her deteriorating health has sparked real concern and seen rallies to support her cause.

The court in the Kurdish majority southeastern city of Diyarbakir ordered her release under judicial supervision, including an overseas travel ban.

Given the time already served in jail, the court ordered her release and adjourned. The next hearing is scheduled for May 29.

Guven, whose party syas she has a "life-threatening" medical condition, did not attend the hearing, according to an AFP journalist in the court.

The HDP supporters gathered outside the Diyarbakir prison and used buses and barricades to try to stop photographers from taking pictures of the ailing MP.

"The authorities should not have waited for her to reach death's door," Mehmet Cekikoglu, one of the supporters, told AFP.

Ramazan Yakar, another party faithful, said Guven's release did not solve their problems, noting, "there are still many others held behind the bars".

- 'Our resistance'-

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 was supported by more than 150 prisoners across Turkey in a show of solidarity.

Guven's fast was aimed at pressuring the government into allowing lawyers and family members to visit PKK leader Ocalan, who has been serving a life sentence in an island prison near Istanbul since his 1999 capture.

Ocalan met his brother Mehmet for the first time in more than two years on January 12, but details of the meeting have not been made public.

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

Several representatives of left-wing political parties in Europe also followed Friday's hearing.

Hakan Tas, Berlin Senator of Germany's Left Party "Die Linke" with Turkish roots, voiced support for Guven.

"The isolation of Mr Ocalan must immediately be lifted, so Leyla Guven's stance and resistance is also ours," he said.

"Today we are here in Diyarbakir to support her voice."

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

The HDP said on Twitter the court ordered the release of Guven "who started an indefinite hunger strike ... to protest the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan."

It added: "Our struggle for democracy, peace and freedom will continue."