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Turkish opposition hits out after hunger striker commits suicide

TURKEY’S People’s Democratic Party (HDP) slammed the government for ignoring deaths in protest against the “unlawful and illegitimate” treatment of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan after political prisoner Ayten Becet committed suicide yesterday.

The 24 year-old took her life at the Gebze Closed Women’s Prison, where it is reported that she hung herself. Her action was carried out in protest against the continued isolation of Mr Ocalan who has been held in solitary confinement on Imrali island since 1999.

As many as 5,000 are believed to have joined the hunger strike campaign in Turkish prisons started by HDP MP Leyla Guven on November 8 2018. Ms Guven is on her 138th day of action.

Turkish state officials removed Ms Becet’s body from the Forensic Medicine Institute in Istanbul in secret yesterday evening. In order to prevent crowds gathering for her funeral, authorities “abducted” the body and sent it to Ms Becet’s home town of Antep to be buried without anybody present.

Her family were reported to be unaware of the move having already left from Antep to make the long journey to Istanbul by car. They were expected to arrive this morning.

Ms Becet is the third person to have died as part of the movement protesting Mr Ocalan’s treatment. Zulkuf Gezen took his own life on March 17 while Ugur Sakar died from his injuries last week after setting fire to himself in the German town of Krefeld in February.

HDP MP for Batman and the party’s legal spokeswoman Ayse Acar Basaran slammed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for its silence and indifference over the deaths, saying they should be taking action to prevent them.

“While these three people risk death to end Turkey’s insistence on unlawfulness, those who incite hatred and discriminate in the public squares try to collect votes through the illegitimate isolation,” she said.

Ms Basaran promised those who have died will be immortalised, warning that “history will judge those who pave the way for these deaths.”

She hit out at the government for its indifference to the isolation of Mr Ocalan, which is contrary to the Turkish constitution along with international laws and conventions. 

The opposition politician claimed the government was trying to suppress the hunger strikes which she said “are constitutionally within the scope of the right to resist.”

Crucial local elections will take place on March 31 with the HDP hoping to make gains.

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