Relatives of Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey were arrested during a press conference at the Metris prison in Istanbul. The arrests, which coincide with a hunger strike by political prisoners since 27 November, come amid a wider international campaign for the freedom of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

A number of relatives of political prisoners in Turkey were arrested on Thursday when they tried to hold a press conference in front of the Metris prison in Istanbul to demand the freedom of the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.

Despite the police surrounding the prison with vans, the determined family members continued to make their statement, only to be stopped by the police when approaching the prison. Expressing their dissatisfaction with the police intervention, they were taken into custody. A reporter from the Mezopotamya news agency, Ferhat Sezgin, trying to capture the moments of the arrest, was also physically attacked by the police and knocked down.

In response to the arrests, Çiçek Otlu, a member of parliament for the People’s Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), arrived at the prison site despite the police blockade. “Increased isolation is being imposed in the prisons. Our demand is an end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. We support the hunger strike started by the imprisoned,” Otlu said. “We will break this unfair lawlessness.”

At the time of reporting, the number of detainees and their whereabouts remain unknown.

Kurdish political prisoners in Turkish prisons began a hunger strike on 27 November in support of the international campaign, ‘Freedom for Öcalan, a political solution to the Kurdish question’. According to the prisoners’ representative, Deniz Kaya, the hunger strike will be carried out in alternating groups until 15 February, the anniversary of Öcalan’s capture in Kenya, which the Kurds see as an international conspiracy.

The prisoners’ relatives have also launched a ‘justice vigil’ in support of the hunger strikers behind bars.