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The BBC's Judith Moloney
"On the streets of Ankara the demonstrators chant their protest"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 16:37 GMT
Turkish prison rebels fight on
Turkish riot police in Ankara
Police moved to keep public order over the raids
Turkish paramilitary police are still trying to regain control of two prisons in the second day of a crackdown on hunger-striking leftist inmates.


The time has come to end this meaningless action

Turkish justice minister
Local NTV television showed pictures of walls at the Canakkale prison in western Turkey partially demolished by bulldozers brought in by the police.

But inmates were said to be still evading their pursuers.

At least 16 prisoners and two policemen have so far been killed in the police operations. At least 78 have been injured.

Security forces regained control of 18 of the 20 prisons targeted on Tuesday.

European concern

Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk urged the protesters to end their "meaningless action".


But the European Commission expressed concern over the crackdown.

Spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said: "We are worried. We call upon all parties to stop the violence in order to reach a peaceful outcome."

Turkey's attempt to gain membership of the EU depends on improving its human rights record and democratic institutions.

Human rights groups condemned the assault.

"The current crisis in Turkish prisons could have been resolved with patience, transparency and a readiness to consult," said Jonathan Sugden, of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International called for a full and independent inquiry into the raids.

Dawn raid

Paramilitary police reportedly stormed Istanbul's Umraniye prison before dawn accompanied by bulldozers, fire-engines and armoured cars.

Buca prison in Izmir
Several prisons were set ablaze on Tuesday
And a few hours later a similar operation began in Canakkale.

The operation is designed to crush a two-month-old hunger strike by more than 1,000 inmates in protest at plans to move them to new maximum security prisons.

The Turkish Justice Ministry said it had "rescued" several hundred hunger-striking inmates.

But doctors were quoted as saying that some prisoners were still refusing food and medical treatment despite the crackdown.

Controversial plan

The hunger strikers believe that the new jails - which have one- or three-person cells - will leave them vulnerable to abuse by the prison authorities. Most prisoners are currently kept in dormitory-style cells.

Cell in new prison
Moves to the new jails have been put on hold
The Turkish Government says the transfer of prisoners to new jails is necessary to break the influence of organised groups within prisons.

But it tried to reassure the protesters that the controversial plan had been postponed.

The Justice Ministry said on Sunday that reforms would not be implemented until legal amendments were passed to allow inmates to associate in recreational areas and to introduce civilian supervision.

Amnesty

The protests coincide with wrangling between the Turkish Government and president over plans to free nearly half the nation's prisoners.

On Sunday, the government decided to send an amnesty bill back to President Ahmed Necdet Sezer for signature.

Mr Sezer had rejected the bill last week on the grounds that it was divisive and did not serve the cause of justice.

Some of the hunger-striking left-wingers would be freed under the amnesty, which is another measure aimed at making Turkish prisons easier to control.

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | Media reports
Turkish press backs prison operations
19 Dec 00 | Europe
Explosive mix in Turkey's jails
05 Dec 00 | Europe
Call to end Turkey 'death fast'
09 Mar 00 | Middle East
EU urges Turkey to reform
26 Jan 00 | Europe
Analysis: Can Turkey fit in?
12 Jan 00 | Europe
Analysis: Turkey's Ocalan dilemma
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