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TURKEY’S opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) politicians staged a “sit-down protest” in Istanbul today as authorities banned them from marching in support of hunger-striking Kurdish MP Leyla Guven.
They were blocked by police on the instructions of Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deems the HDP to be terrorists linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The march was planned in solidarity with Ms Guven whose hunger strike continued for the 96th day despite her unexpected release from Diyarbakir prison at the end of January.
She is demanding an end to the isolation of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who has been held in isolation on Imrali island since 1999.
Mr Ocalan had not received a visitor since 2016 until a recent visit by his brother Memed.
He has not seen his lawyers since 2011 and their 788th application to speak to Mr Ocalan was rejected on Friday.
“Because ‘Apo’ [Mr Ocalan] is inside, the MPs say that they will march around somewhere. Whoever let’s you march is not a man,” Mr Soylu said.
However HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli insisted the march would go ahead as planned as MPs gathered at Istanbul’s Taksim Square under a heavy police presence.
It led to a tense standoff as the parliamentarians and their supporters donned T-shirts bearing the slogan “Isolation shall be lifted, Leyla shall live,” along with a photograph of the Hakarri MP.
Mr Temelli and HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan held a press conference outside the Taksim Hill hotel and warned the police actions showed that the “whole of Turkey is under isolation.”
“If you want to see the photograph of the isolation, look at Taksim. If you want to see the photograph of isolation, we present you this photograph. Turkey is under isolation.
“We are calling out to everyone in Turkey: Side with democracy and law. Defend the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”
“If we can defend these all together, this will open the way for Turkey,” Mr Temelli blasted.
Ms Buldan took aim at Mr Soylu and said they were not marching for manhood “but for humanity. Stopping the deaths is a necessity of being a human.”
“We refuse the understanding that does not let 67 MPs march and make a statement,” she said.
Police barricaded the Taksim monument and the MPs were blocked from marching down Istanbul’s Istiklal Street leading to the sit-in protest.
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