Turkish PM Says Hunger-Striking Inmates\' Demands \'Unacceptable\'
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit ruled out Monday as "unacceptable" the demands by Turkish inmates on hunger strike in protest over planned prison reforms, and appealed to the strikers to end their action.
"Those who plotted this protest are trying to make some impositions on the state. It is not possible to accept this," Ecevit told reporters in Ankara.
More than 200 prisoners, mainly from the extreme-left, have been starving themselves for over 50 days to protest against the opening of new jails, will cells for up to three people replacing the existing large dormitories that sleep to 60 prisoners.
Some 300 prisoners and their relatives have also been on hunger strike, taking only small amounts of water and sugar.
The strikers are demanding that the government scrap the new prisons, known as F-type prisons, claiming that they aim to isolate prisoners physically and socially.
But the government argues that the reforms are intended to bring the country's prisons up to modern standards, one of the European Union conditions for opening negotiations for Turkish membership of the Union.
Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk announced Saturday that he had postponed the opening of the new prisons "until there is a social consensus on these establishments."
But the inmates refused to halt their strike, describing the minister's declaration as "insufficient," a mediator said Sunday.
Other demands by the inmates include the abolition of a law on terrorism-related crimes, the dissolution of state security courts which hear terrorism-related trials, and a guarantee that officials responsible for a series of recent bloody crackdowns on prison riots stand trial.
They are also asking for the immediate release of inmates left with serious physical handicaps or illnesses -- both after a similar hunger strike in 1996, which claimed 12 lives, and during security operations against jail riots.
Turkey rejects claims that the F-type prisons are designed to isolate prisoners and maintains that the overcrowded dormitories are the main reason for the frequent riots, which prompt heavy crackdowns by security forces, ending in death and injuries.
Ecevit tried once again Monday to alleviate fears over the new jails, saying that prisoners would not be put in solitary confinement and would be allowed to associate with fellow inmates in recreational areas.
"The state and the government are showing the necessary understanding. We will not hurry with the opening of the new jails and will try to find the best design through dialogue," he said.
The prime minister urged the prisoners to end their protest and asked for help from inmate relatives to persuade their children to stop their action.
"It is not possible for them to get anywhere with the death fast. I call on the parents of these young people: do not let your children kill themselves. This hunger strike should end at one," he said -- ANKARA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)