Edinburgh writer in Turkish jail on hunger strike

Stephen Kaczynski is on hunger strike
Stephen Kaczynski is on hunger strike
Share this article
Have your say

THE mother of an Edinburgh man on hunger strike in a Turkish jail has spoken of her worry about his health and her wish for him to come home.

Ann Kaczynski, 70, who lives in Gilmerton, said her son Steve – being held in isolation in a high-security prison in Istanbul – was still waiting for a date for a court hearing amid fears any trial might not take place for up to a year.

She said: “It’s very worrying. I just wish he could come back to Britain and stay here.”

Steve Kaczynski, 52, a ­journalist and campaigner, was arrested in April in a raid by Turkish police on the Idil Culture Centre in Istanbul ahead of a symposium where he was due to act as interpreter. It is thought the authorities are claiming he has links to banned left-wing organisation DHKP-C.

Members of left-wing Turkish music group Grup Yorum were arrested at the same time, but later released.

Mr Kaczyinski’s brother Brian, who was able to visit him in prison last week, said: “I believe Steve was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr Kaczynski has been on hunger strike since June 25 in protest at his conditions – being locked up for 23 hours a day and denied visits, access to books and letters.

Brian went to Turkey a few weeks ago to see his brother, but he was refused a visit by officials who said he did not have the necessary documents.

After returning to the UK, the British consulate in Istanbul managed to arrange access and he flew back to Turkey to see Steve.

“He was on the 26th day of his hunger strike when I saw him,” said Brian. “He had lost a lot of weight, but he said he was feeling fine. He is getting regular medical supervision.

“I want him to come off hunger strike, but when I spoke to him he said he feels he has to do it at this stage. My concern is health – and even his life.

“He has been very critical in his writings about the Turkish regime and in the past has criticised prison conditions and isolation. He is now suffering what he has been writing against.”

Mr Kaczynski was born in Edinburgh and went to Linlithgow Academy, then Edinburgh University to study Russian and German. He worked as a journalist, including several years at the BBC World Service. He has written extensively about human rights abuses and about isolation conditions in Turkish prisons.

Brian said it was not clear exactly what charges might be brought against his brother, but he said: “We think he is being held on suspicion of membership of a banned organisation.

“But his lawyer seemed to think the evidence was ­spurious. We’ve been told it could take up to a year to get a hearing.”

Reports at the time of Mr Kaczynski’s arrest said he was detained in connection with a hostage incident linked to DHKP-C which ended when a state prosecutor and the two gunmen holding him were killed after Turkish security forces stormed the building.Brian said he understood the incident happened before Steve arrived in Turkey. And he said: “Steve is an idealist and a writer. He is not violent.”

A British consular official in Istanbul is due to visit Mr Kaczynski in prison tomorrow.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the arrest and detention of a British national in Turkey on April 2. We are providing consular assistance and have been in close contact with the family and prison authorities.”

Brian said: “I’m on stand-by to go back if the situation arises.”


HAD Steve Kaczynski not been taking vitamins, he would be starting to show serious signs of deterioriation by now.

It has been around a month since he last ate a meal, and experts say the human body cannot survive more than 60 days without food.

Illusionist David Blaine once spent 44 days suspended in a glass box without food, but prisoners who embark on a hunger strike generally die after two months.