31 Oct 2012

Protests over Kurdish protesters

8:39 pm on 31 October 2012

Kurdish protesters have clashed with police in Turkey. They were demonstrating in support of more than 650 prisoners - some of whom are on a hunger strike.

The worst clashes were at Diyarbakir prison, in south-eastern Turkey, but they also took place in Istanbul.

The hunger strikers are demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in Turkey's education and legal systems and an end to the solitary confinement of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Ocalan was sentenced to death in 1999, though that was later commuted to life imprisonment after the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey in 2002.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames PKK leaders for the hunger strike.

"As they eat lamb kebabs, they order prisoners to die," Mr Erdogan told a meeting of the AK Party on Tuesday. "You cannot blackmail the state by dying," he declared.

The BBC reports Kurds are thought to make up more than 20% of the population of Turkey.