2nd member of Turkish left-wing band dies of hunger strike

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A second member of a left-wing popular folk music group that is banned in Turkey has died of a hunger strike in protest of the government’s crackdown on the band, the group said Thursday on its Twitter account.

Grup Yorum said bass guitarist Ibrahim Gokcek, 41, died in a hospital in Istanbul. He was placed in intensive care after he abandoned his hunger strike two days ago. He had been fasting for 323 days prior to that.

The group’s singer, 28-year-old Helin Bolek, lost her life on April 3, on the 288th day of her hunger strike. Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but consume liquids and take vitamins that prolong their protests.

Grup Yorum, formed in Istanbul in 1985, is known for its protest songs and is composed of rotating band members. It has been prohibited from performing in Turkey since 2016, and authorities have jailed some of its members.

The government accuses Grup Yorum of links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP/C. The militant group is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Gokcek and Bolek had embarked on the hunger strike while in prison last year to press the government to lift the ban and free detained band members.

They were released in November, but continued the protest to demand that Grup Yorum be allowed to resume concerts, that other jailed band members be released and that lawsuits against the group be dropped.

Two Grup Yorum band members, including Gokcek’s wife, remain in prison.

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