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The BBC's Chris Morris
reports from the funeral of the latest inmate to die
 real 28k

Friday, 20 April, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Deal rejected in Turkey hunger strike
Funeral of Canan Kulaksiz
Fourteen people have starved themselves to death
A senior Turkish Government minister has suggested easing prison isolation rules in a bid to end the prison hunger strike which has claimed the lives of 12 inmates and two supporters.

Hundreds of jailed left-wing militants have joined the death fast over plans to move them from dormitory-style accommodation to cells, where they fear they will be at greater risk of abuse from prison officials.

Hunger strike
800 prisoners
29 jails
200 pledged to die
162 in hospital
12 inmates dead
2 supporters dead
Several women among the dead
(Source: Turkish Justice Minister)
Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk now says that - although he still wants to move the prisoners to cells - he is putting forward a bill to enable them to meet for educational, social, cultural and sports activities.

But the offer has been rejected as inadequate by a leading human rights activist.

"It is not progress, but a more sophisticated and refined regime of isolation," Yucel Sayman, the head of the Istanbul Bar Association, told the French news agency AFP.

Hunger strike Zehra Kulaksiz
Many hunger strikers are said to be close to death
Prisoners jailed under terrorism charges are currently kept in their cells and not allowed to mix together, and the government had hoped that ending the isolation might provide a breakthrough in the deadlock.

The government insists that its central plan - to move away from dormitory-style systems - is not negotiable.

It blames the dormitory system for the high levels of hostage-taking and rioting in Turkey's prisons.

But inmates claim that the new cells, housing a maximum of three people, will put them at much greater risk of torture and beating.

Mr Turk has also pledged to improve prison "transparency".

Turkish cell
Prisoners say small cells will leave them vulnerable to abuse
He is putting forward two other bills to improve prison complaints procedures.

"With these draft bills, we will establish transparency in prisons," he said.

And he renewed his appeal for the hunger strike to be called off.

"I appeal to the prisoners, their families and civic groups once again. The deaths must stop. The protest must end before it is too late."

Turkish security forces attempted to break the protest by storming prisons last December, but the hunger strike has continued.

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See also:

18 Apr 01 | Europe
Turkey's radicals wait for death
10 Jan 01 | Europe
Shadow hangs over Turkish jails
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EU urges Turkey to reform
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