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Jailed leader of pro-Kurd party in Turkey ends hunger strike

© AFP/File | A Kurdish woman holds a photo of arrested HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas at a protest in Athens, Greece

DIYARBAKIR (TURKEY) (AFP) - 

A jailed co-leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on Friday called off his hunger strike, announced the previous day to protest the "inhumane" conditions he was being held under, after prison authorities agreed to talks.

Selahattin Demirtas's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the second-largest opposition party in Turkey, is campaigning against the government's plan for constitutional changes that would bolster President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Demirtas and the party's other leader, Figen Yuksekdag, have been imprisoned along with 11 other HDP lawmakers on accusations of links to Kurdish separatists who have waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

In a message relayed by his party on Thursday, Demirtas had said he was going on hunger strike because officials at the prison, in the northwestern province of Edirne, had refused to discuss what he termed "unlawful practices".

Several Kurdish convicts jailed in Edirne, as well as in Izmir, Ankara and Van, have already started hunger strikes to protest prison conditions.

They too decided to end their action on Friday after the opening of a dialogue with the prison authorities and "promises" to improve the prisoners' conditions, according to a statement issued by the HDP on behalf of the "political prisoners".

Demirtas in a separate statement welcomed that the hunger strikes could be ended, thanks to "mutual undertakings and good intentions".

No details emerged from the start of the discussions.

The HDP is calling for a "no" vote in the April 16 referendum on approving constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency and abolish the post of prime minister.

The government says the changes would provide political stability by avoiding fragile coalition governments, but critics fear it will lead to one-man rule.

The arrests have added to European fears that Erdogan is seeking to silence opposition voices.

© 2017 AFP