Concerns are growing over two lawyers currently on death fasts in prison in Turkey as activists continue to protest what they say is negligence by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in their treatment of prisoners on hunger strike.
Lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal both began a hunger strike on February 3 and a death fast on April 5, demanding a fair trial.
Last May, Timtik was sentenced to 13 years, six months, and Aytaç Ünsal to 10 years, six months.
“Timtik has lost about 40 kilograms of weight after months of a hunger strike. The government must move to save her and her colleagues, as they are facing death. The hunger strikers, including my cousin, are calling for a fair trial and this is a legitimate right,” said Umran Deniz, a niece of Ünsal.
“The charges against them are invalid, especially since Turkish judges acquitted them and ordered their release, but on the same day other courts requested them and sentenced them to long years in prison,” she added.
According to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), death fasts differ from hunger strikes as those who go through it only drink water with sugar and salt in it compared to hunger strikers who consume several liquids and take vitamin B.
The issue of death fasts in Turkish prisons in recent months has been highlighted following the death of musician Mustafa Koçak in April after 297 days of hunger strike. Koçak was serving a life sentence over charges related to the killing of a Turkish prosecutor. He was also part of the politically engaged Yorum band.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, 22 international bar associations have asked Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to order the release of Timtik and Ünsal following reports of their failing health.