Amnesty International said Wednesday it feared Turkish prisoners on a hunger strike to protest planned prison reforms could starve to death.
"The lives of these prisoners are at risk as the hunger strike has entered its 39th day, and some prisoners have converted their hunger strike into a death fast" since November 19, the human rights watchdog said in a press release.
The number of hunger strikers across Turkey stood at 856 Wednesday.
They are protesting a reform program under which Ankara plans to replace existing jails which have dormitories housing up to 60 people into prisons with smaller cells holding a maximum of three prisoners.
Amnesty "believes that prolonged isolation, including small group isolation may have serious effects on the physical and mental health of prisoners and may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It can also facilitate torture and ill-treatment of prisoners."
It called on the Turkish government "to ensure that all prisoners, including prisoners convicted for political offences, are treated in compliance with international standards."
Turkey maintains that its prison reforms will help ease overcrowding and allow better overall control of jails where mutinies and violent clashes between inmates are frequent.
On Tuesday Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk urged prisoners to end their hunger strikes, and alleged that "terrorist" groups were behind the action.
The strikes were initiated by members of outlawed leftist organizations, particularly the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, according to press reports -- ANKARA (AFP)
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