Second Turkish Prisoner Dies on Hunger Strike against Jail Reform
A Turkish inmate on a hunger strike since late November died Saturday, the second death in a nationwide prison protest against controversial jail reforms, a leading human rights group told AFP.
Adil Kaplan, 38, jailed for membership in an underground extreme leftist group, died in a hospital in the northwestern city of Edirne after one week of medical treatment, said the secretary-general of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Selahattin Esmer.
The hunger strike claimed its first victim last month.
At present between 500 and 1,000 inmates were on hunger strike, although some had interrupted the strike at certain times and then restarted it while others joined the protest several weeks after the action was initiated in October, Esmer said.
"We estimate that some 120 people among them are in a very, very critical condition. Other deaths can follow soon," he said.
"Given the fact that they have survived so far, we understand that they did not observe a very strict hunger strike. But even if they survive they will be left with serious health problems," Esmer added.
The prisoners, backed by a number of civic groups, are protesting the introduction of new jails in which dormitories for dozens of inmates were replaced by cells for up to three people, a set-up they fear could leave them more exposed to ill treatment.
Last December, paramilitaries raided 20 jails across Turkey to break the hunger strike. The four-day crackdown resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and some 30 prisoners, many of whom died by orchestrated self-immolation.
Esmer explained it was difficult to obtain the exact number of inmates who continued the protest and those who had quit.
"The state is not transparent and the information supplied by the organizations to which the inmates belong is not always reliable," he said.
Turkey's Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk, meanwhile, asserted that there could be no return to the dormitory system.
"It is absolutely out of the question. We expect that this meaningless hunger strike ends as soon as possible," he told reporters late Friday, according to Anatolia news agency.
The government maintains that the packed dormitories were the main reason behind lax security in Turkey's crowded jails, where inmates have often been able to smuggle in weapons and to use them against authorities in frequent riots and hostage-taking incidents – ANKARA (AFP)
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