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Co-leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party to go on hunger strike

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo taken on October 6, 2015 shows the co-chairman of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, gesturing during an interview in Istanbul. (Photo by AFP)

An imprisoned co-leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party is planning a hunger strike to protest “inhumane” conditions of the jail where he has been held.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said Thursday that Selahattin Demirtas would begin his strike at the prison in the northwestern province of Edirne on Friday.

The party said the action was meant to protest horrible conditions in the facility and because officials there had refused to discuss what Demirtas has termed “unlawful practices.”

The HDP, the second largest opposition party in Turkey, has been a main critic of plans by the Ankara government to change the country’s constitution. The party has campaigned against the April 16 referendum on approving the changes.

If approved, the amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party would usher in an executive presidency, which would bolster President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Erdogan says the proposed constitutional changes would guarantee political stability, arguing the new system would prevent the return of fragile coalition governments led by the prime minister. The post of prime minister will be abolished in the new system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by AFP)

The HDP and other opposition parties say the changes would lead to a one-man rule in Turkey.

Demirtas has been in jail along with the HDP’s co-leader Figen Yuksekdag and 11 other lawmakers of the party on accusations of links to Kurdish militants.

Demirtas and the HDP have denied the allegations and accused the government of using a state of emergency introduced after a failed coup last year to suppress dissent.

Several Kurdish convicts have already started hunger strike to protest prison conditions in Edirne, Izmir, Ankara and Van.

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