Turkey's Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk on Friday accused Turkish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of encouraging hunger strikes in the country's jails and inciting inmates to commit suicide.
The allegations came a week after government intervention left at least 31 people dead when Turkish security forces moved in to quell hunger-strikers in 20 jails nationwide protesting prison reforms.
But despite the clampdown, some 350 inmates are continuing their hunger-strike and over 1,600 others are fasting in solidarity.
Turk on Friday said that NGOs were inciting suicide by supporting the hunger strikers. "NGOs are supporting this protest. It's wrong,” he said.
Although Turk avoided referring to any particular organization, the Turkish Association of Human Rights and the Turkish Medical Union have both been vocal in their criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.
"Prisoners are still pursuing their senseless protest with external support from certain groups,” Turk stated, according to the Anatolia news agency.
He also insisted that medics should intervene in the hunger strike to stop the protest, saying that "saving a human life is the most noble thing a doctor can do".
While members of the Turkish Medical Union are refusing to step in to force-feed strikers, the health ministry has threatened legal action against those who will not administer such treatment.
The strike was sparked by prison reform proposals, which include moving prisoners to smaller cells. Inmates fear this will lead to increased harassment and intimidation by prison guards.
While the deadly crackdown provoked international outcry over the authorities' handling of the situation, Turkey insisted that at least 16 of the deaths were suicide -- ANKARA (AFP)
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