Turkish Kurd leader Ocalan meets lawyers for first time since 2011

Istanbul (AFP) –


The leader of Turkey's militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has met his lawyers for the first time in eight years, one of them said on Monday.

"This is the first meeting with the lawyers since 2011. The meeting lasted approximately one hour," on May 2, Rezan Sarica told an Istanbul press conference.

Turkey captured Ocalan, public number enemy one, in February 1999 and imprisoned him on the heavily fortified island of Imrali off Istanbul where he has been kept for 20 years.

Hundreds of Kurdish prisoners have been holding hunger strikes since November to protest his isolation, and several have since died.

"We respect the resistance of our friends inside and outside prisons but want them not to carry this to a dimension that will threaten their health or result in death," said Nevroz Uysal, another of Ocalan's lawyers at the press conference.

"It is not yet clear if the meetings with lawyers will continue periodically," added Sarica, who met Ocalan with Uysal.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The Kurdish insurgency in Turkey has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.