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Turkey

Kurdish prisoners in Turkey end two-month hunger strike

More than 700 Kurdish prisoners in Turkey have stopped refusing food after more than two months. They were appealing for better conditions for the jailed leader of the Kurdish PKK group; he asked them to stop.

Members of a pro-Kurdish party sit on the ground as they start on November 17, 2012 a two-day hunger strike in support of the several hundreds Kurdish inmates who have been on hunger strike for 67 days in Ankara. (Photo via AFP)

Hungerstreik in der Türkei

The prisoners began eating again at the request of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, who had said on Saturday that their protest "had achieved its goal."

"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 by an organization representing the prisoners' families.

The Turkish government welcomed the news, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously called the demonstration a "show."

"I hope we will not face such protests from now on," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told the state-run Anatolia news agency. "Turkey is a democratic country. Whatever demands the people have, the government and politicians can air them in parliament."

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the government in Ankara, as well as by the EU and US, and as such is not permitted to field parliamentary candidates.

More than 700 fellow inmates in Turkish prisons had been refusing food, for 68 days in the cases of the first to join the appeal, seeking better treatment for Ocalan. Doctors had said that in some cases the protesters were beginning to put their lives at risk through malnourishment. Turkish media had reported that many of the prisoners were secretly eating. Ocalan reportedly asked his brother, who was visiting him in prison, to call off the hunger strike that began on September 12.

The Turkish military and PKK fighters frequently engage in conflict in the southern areas of Turkey more densely populated by Kurdish people - more than 40,000 people have been killed in almost three decades of fighting. Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Sunday that five soldiers, and several PKK fighters, were killed in clashes close to the country's border with Iraq.

Ocalan, who is 62-years-old, was arrested in 1999.

msh/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)