In syncronised press conferences that were held throughout Turkey, the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD) appealed for national and international action to positively address the demands of prison hunger strikers in the country.
The indefinite, rotating hunger strike launched by political prisoners in Turkey – to protest against the prison isolation conditions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan as well as the violations of prisoners’ rights more generally – has reached its 146th day.
Lawyers from the OHD’s Diyarbakır Branch organised a press conference regarding the hunger strikes in Diyarbakır (Amed) as part of the syncronised press conferences that were held in Istanbul, Ankara, Van (Wan) and Mersin, Mesopotamia Agency reports.
Lawyers of the OHD urged the Turkish Ministry of Justice to accept the demands of the hunger striking prisoners as they also appealed to international legal institutions to urgently act for the hunger strikers. “The violations of rights in prisons have been increasing, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic”, said Muharrem Şahin, the co-chair of the OHD-Diyarbakır.
“Current data and the reports from civil society organisations indicate that, instead of taking measures against the pandemic in prisons, the authorities have used the pandemic as an excuse to further deepen the isolation conditions of prisoners and the prisoners have been completely isolated from the outside world as their basic communication rights were removed during the pandemic”.
Şahin referred to the demands of the hunger strikers: “Their only demand is that the isolation of Mr. Öcalan be lifted: they demand that Mr. Öcalan can be visited by his lawyers and his family members and his right to communiciate with the outside world be recognised. These are the basic legal rights of any prisoner”.
“In case the demands of the prisoners are not satisfied”, Şahin added, “the Turkish government will be responsible for any unwanted outcomes of the ongoing indefinite-rotating hunger strike, such as possible damage to their health”.
Şahin urged Turkey’s Ministry of Justice and all international law institutions and human rights defenders around the world to act for the hunger striking prisoners: “We appeal to all international public opinion makers and legal authorities to act sensitively to preserve the rights of the hunger striking prisoners, starting with their right to live and their right to health”.