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Friday, 13 April, 2001, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
Tenth Turkish hunger strike victim
Turkish protests in Germany
Turks in Germany are supporting the hunger strike
A prisoner on hunger-strike in Ankara has died, bringing to 10 the number of people who have starved themselves to death in Turkey since last month.

Doctors say Erol Evcil, who was jailed for membership of a far-left group, had been refusing medical treatment.

Another leftist prisoner, Mehmet Sahin, who was declared dead earlier has been revived and is in a coma.

According to doctors more than 100 hunger-strikers are now in a critical condition and more deaths are inevitable.


Dozens of people may die if neither side backs down

BBC correspondent Chris Morris

Several hundred prisoners from extreme left-wing groups are on hunger-strike to protest against their transfer in December from large dormitory wards into small cells, where they say they are mistreated.

The prisoners resisted the transfer in a violent four-day confrontation which led to the death of two soldiers and 30 inmates, many of whom set themselves on fire. Now the hunger-strike is taking its toll.

The Minister of Justice, Hikmet Sami Turk, has expressed regret at the recent deaths but rejected a return to the dormitory system.

The BBC correspondent in Ankara, Chris Morris, says the prospect is that dozens of people may die if neither side backs down.

Discipline

The left-wing groups maintain strict discipline inside the prisons and they have ordered the death fast to continue.

New Turkish prison
Hunger strikers are protesting about new small cells
For a long time the hunger-strikers were taking vitamins and sugared water to prolong their lives, but now it is reported that many of them are taking nothing at all.

International human rights groups have urged the government to step in but for many prisoners it is already too late.

Mr Sami Turk earlier said that the prison plan would be reassessed "to satisfy all contemporary and universal criteria on detention".

On Saturday, parliament approved a controversial amnesty law which could set free almost half the country's 72,000 prisoners.

Under the new law, most prisoners would receive a 10-year reduction in their sentence, meaning that thousands could be freed immediately, significantly reducing overcrowding.

Turkish officials have blamed overcrowding and the dormitory system, together with the influence of left-wing groups, for the frequent rioting and hostage taking in the country's jails.

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See also:

10 Dec 00 | Europe
Turkey backtracks on prison moves
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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