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Kurdistan Workers Party leader meets lawyers as hopes raised for peace process

LAWYERS were able to visit Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan today raising hopes of the restart of peace talks between Turkey’s government and the PKK.

The visit was the first since the state announced the lifting of a ban on such meetings last week.

Two members of Mr Ocalan’s legal team, lawyers Nevroz Uysal and Rezan Sarica, travelled to the prison island of Imrali in the Marmara Sea, his representatives confirmed.

Details of the meeting are yet to be announced, but sources close to Mr Ocalan told the Star they were optimistic that hunger strikes in protest at the Kurdish leader’s treatment would be called off.

As many as 7,000 people —most of them languishing in Turkish jails because of their opposition to the government — are believed to have joined the hunger strikes which were initiated by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Leyla Guven in November.

They are demanding an end to the isolation of Mr Ocalan. Until recently he had been stopped from seeing relatives and, until a one-off visit on May 2, had not seen his legal team since 2011.

Supporters of the PKK leader, who was jailed for life in 1998, say his treatment is in breach of Turkish and international law and amounts to torture.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture recently visited those on hunger strike in Turkish prisons following pressure from Kurdish organisations and their supporters.

Their report prompted Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul to announce on state TV: “The decisions regarding a ban on visits has been lifted, providing for the possibility of visits.”

As the lawyers met Mr Ocalan, sources remained optimistic about the possibility of a restart of the peace process that stopped in 2015. Representatives of the state had held discussions with Mr Ocalan on Imrali island after the PKK announced a ceasefire in 2013.

“This could indicate a positive step towards peace talks and an end to the hunger strikes,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Star.

“Of course we need to wait and see what the lawyers and Ocalan say, but it seems likely we could see start of the peace negotiations again. It is an important victory for the hunger strikers,” they said.

A press conference and a statement from Mr Ocalan is expected tomorrow or Friday.

He reinforced his commitment to peaceful dialogue on May 2 and also hinted at talks regarding Kurds in Syria as he called for the Kurdish-led militia, the people’s protection units (YPG), to respect “Turkey’s sensitivities” in the region.

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