Toll from Turkish Prison Raids Rises to 23

Published December 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The death toll from a massive security crackdown on hunger-striking prisoners in Turkey has risen to 23, the Anatolia news agency and officials said Thursday. 

Four more prisoners at Canakkale jail in western Turkey died on Thursday, officials said. 

"Three prisoners died and 16 prisoners were injured" in the prison, which was one of the two institutions where hundreds of armed inmates had barricaded themselves in, the interior ministry said in a statement. 

Anatolia later reported a fourth prisoner died in hospital from injuries sustained in the security operation. 

The interior ministry or Anatolia did not specify how the inmates lost their lives, but Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk told reporters here earlier that a female prisoner died after being set ablaze by fellow inmates. 

The earlier toll in the operation launched Tuesday in 20 jails had stood at 20 dead -- 18 prisoners and two soldiers. 

Turkish officials have previously said that most of the prisoners died after setting fire to themselves, while the two soldiers were shot. 

Paramilitary troops succeeded in seizing control of the Canakkale prison Thursday some five hours after they launched a fresh assault against the 158 inmates holed up inside. 

"The operation in Canakkale was successfully concluded and a search is underway in the prison," the interior ministry said. 

It added that Turkish paramilitaries were still battling Thursday -- the third day of the raid -- to break the resistance of left-wing inmates in the Umraniye prison in Istanbul. 

"The prisoners have shut themselves up in a conference hall in Umraniye prison and are continuing to resist security forces," the statement said. 

The aim of the crackdown was to end a two-month hunger-strike by mainly left-wing prisoners protesting against proposed prison reforms. 

The government plans to scrap existing dormitories that sleep up to 60 people and introduce jails with smaller cells for up to three inmates. 

Inmates are resisting the changes on the grounds that they would be further isolated and more likely to suffer mistreatment -- ANKARA (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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