Kurdish prisoners end hunger strike
Published Sunday, November 18, 2012
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters and political prisoners ended a hunger strike in jails across Turkey on Sunday after an appeal from their leader, fuelling hopes a deal had been struck that could revive talks to end a decades-old conflict.
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his supporters to end their protest after holding a series of talks with Turkish MIT intelligence agency officials, according to one media report.
Top MIT officials held secret meetings with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in September more talks were possible.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in 28 years of fighting between Turkey and the PKK.
Ocalan's call for an end to the hunger strike, which the prisoners staged to demand an end to his isolation in an island prison south of Istanbul, was announced by his brother on Saturday.
"On the basis of our leader's call ... we end our protest as of November 18, 2012," Deniz Kaya, a spokesman for the jailed PKK militants, was quoted as saying in a statement by an association representing the inmates' families.
A newspaper said on Sunday talks between Ocalan and Turkish intelligence officials over the last two months had paved the way for his call.
"A delegation went to Imrali on three occasions. A senior MIT official joined one of these visits and Ocalan's intervention was sought to end the hunger strike," the liberal daily Radikal said. It did not identify its sources.
Ocalan, imprisoned on Imrali island in the Marmara Sea south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999, has significant support among Kurds but is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984.
According to justice ministry figures, about 1,700 people had been taking part in the hunger strike, which ended on its 68th day.
But there was no indication the hunger strikers' demands had been met.
As well as end to Ocalan's isolation and limited access to lawyers, they had demanded greater use of the Kurdish language in schools and other institutions.