Kurdish politicians in Turkey to protest at militant's isolation

September 1, 2016 8:37 AM EDT

People wave flags with pictures of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

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ANKARA (Reuters) - A group of Kurdish politicians and activists in Turkey said on Thursday they would start a hunger strike next week to demand the right to visit the jailed the Kurdish PKK militant leader, who has been isolated since a peace process collapsed last year.

Abdullah Ocalan, who was jailed in 1999, has not been allowed visits by pro-Kurdish lawmakers since April 2015. The leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has also not seen any family members since 2014 or his lawyers since 2011.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency seeking autonomy for the southeast region of Turkey for more than three decades. It has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks since a two-year ceasefire deal broke down last year.

A group of 50 people, mostly activists and up to four lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), would refuse food from Monday unless Ocalan was allowed visits, a politician from a Kurdish umbrella organization told Reuters.

"We demand the lifting of isolation imposed on Ocalan. Our strike will continue until a meeting with Ocalan is provided," said a politician from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party.

Pervin Buldan, a senior HDP parliamentarian, said three or four lawmakers from the party would join the hunger strike by the group in Turkey's largest Kurdish city Diyarbakir.

Ocalan is serving his life sentence in an island prison in Turkey's northwestern Marmara Sea.

Last week, a suicide truck bombing at a police headquarters in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast killed at least 11 people, two days after Turkey launched an incursion in northern Syria against Islamic State and Kurdish militia fighters.

The PKK said on its website that the truck bombing was in retaliation for Ocalan's "continued isolation" and lack of information about his welfare. It warned of more attacks.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

(Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alison Williams)

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