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Hunger strike in Turkish jails ends after Kurd militant's call

Nov. 18, 2012 11:16 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 18, 2012 7:24 P.M.)
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) -- Hundreds of Kurdish militants in jails across Turkey ended a 68-day-old hunger strike on Sunday in response to a call from their jailed leader, an association representing the inmates' families said in a statement.

The move will fuel hopes of a fresh push to end a decades-old conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, - designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union - in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's call for the end of the hunger strike, which was staged to demand an end to his isolation in an island prison south of Istanbul, was announced by his brother on Saturday.

"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 in the association statement.

Ocalan's announcement suggested a deal had been struck to end a protest that was becoming a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

A newspaper said on Sunday talks between Ocalan and Turkish intelligence officials over the last two months had paved the way for his call to end the hunger strike.

"A delegation went to Imrali on three occasions. A senior MIT official joined one of these visits and Ocalan's intervention was sought to end the hunger strike," the liberal daily Radikal said. It did not identify its sources.

Ocalan, imprisoned on Imrali island in the Marmara Sea south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999, has significant support among Kurds but is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

According to justice ministry figures about 1,700 people had been taking part in the protest.
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