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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Turkish death fast toll reaches six
Smoke at Buca Prison, Turkey, in December storming
Police tried to end the protest by storming jails
Six people, including three women, have now died in a hunger strike staged in Turkey by dozens of left-wing prisoners and their supporters.

One of the dead women was the sister of a prisoner, who had begun the fast to show solidarity with him.

The others were inmates who died in jails on Wednesday, said a human rights group.

The hunger strike protest began in September over government plans to introduce new prisons with small cells instead of dormitories.

This sparked fears among inmates that they would be more vulnerable to abuse.

Turkish prison
Inmates say cells will leave them at risk of beating and torture
The government insists that the new-style prisons will reduce the level of riots and hostage-taking incidents.

One of the two women who died on Wednesday was named by the Turkish Human Rights Association as Fatma Ersoy, a left-wing radical who had gone without food for 174 days.

She died at the Kutahya prison in central Turkey.

The other, Nergis Gulmez, died in a prison in Istanbul after a 125-day hunger strike.

The third woman, Gulsuman Donmez, joined the fast in support of her brother Cetin, a convicted member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front, said a prisoners' support group, Ozgur Tayad.

'Hundreds' on fast

The association says around 120 other inmates are in a critical condition, and up to 1,000 inmates are said to be taking part in the fast.

Most are believed to be accepting only water containining salt or sugar, and vitamins, and campaigners say many have already suffered permanent medical damage.

Government forces stormed jails around the country in December, in an attempt to end the protest. The operation left around 30 prisoners and two soldiers dead.

Two other members of the Revolutionary People's party have already died - Bulent Coban and Cengiz Soydas.

The other prisoner, Adil Kaplan, belonged to the armed Turkish Workers' Communist Liberation Army.

The international pressure group, Human Rights Watch, called on the Turkish Government to take steps to bring the hunger strike to an end.

It condemned the new prisons, saying they contravened international standards.

The Council of Europe has also urged Turkey to reform its prisons and investigate allegations of abuse of prisoners.

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