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Nazmir Gur of the Human Rights Association of Turkey
"The people staying the prisons are all political people"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Turkey urged to reverse prison policy
Funeral of Canan Kulaksiz
Seventeen people have starved themselves to death
The Turkish Government has been urged by two prominent human rights organisations, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe, to end its policy of holding prisoners in isolation.

Prolonged isolation can in itself amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and can facilitate torture and ill-treatment

Amnesty International

Seventeen people have died so far in a hunger strike by prisoners and their supporters demanding an end to the practice.

More than 1,000 left-wing inmates were transferred to new prisons, known as F-types, where they are held in isolation or in groups of two or three, after security forces stormed jails across Turkey last December.

Amnesty says that, since then, no-one held in an F-type prison has been brought out of their cells for recreation or proper exercise.

The inmates had been previously held in prisons with large communal areas which the authorities say made possible frequent hostage-taking and rioting.

Frequent violence

Amnesty said in a statement on Tuesday that many inmates in the new prisons had allegedly gone without human contact for days, "apart from roll-calls, which are said to be frequently accompanied by violence".

Hunger strike Zehra Kulaksiz
Many hunger strikers are said to be close to death

"Prolonged isolation can in itself amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and can facilitate torture and ill-treatment. The Turkish Government must immediately stop such abuses," Amnesty demanded, calling for prisoners in the F-type prisons to be allowed access to common areas.

The government has outlined proposals to repeal a law which forbids prisoners convicted of terrorism from meeting other inmates, but the proposals have yet to be approved in parliament and critics say they do not go far enough.

The government had originally promised to change the law before the December transfers were imposed. Prisoners resisted the transfers - 30 were killed, as well as two soldiers during four days of clashes.

'End quickly'

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said on Tuesday that the policy of "small group isolation" was "not acceptable and should be ended quickly".

Turkish cell
Prisoners say small cells will leave them vulnerable to abuse
The CPT conceded that there could be certain times when prisoners might need to be kept apart "to make expectional arrangements for specific prisoners" who were particularly dangerous. But it stressed the importance of most prisoners being able to mix with each other.

"The great majority of prisoners in F-type prisons could certainly benefit from a developed programme of communal activities outside their living units without jeopardising security," the CPT argued.

Last week Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said that, while he wanted to maintain the transfer of prisoners away from dormitories to cell accomodation, he would put forward a bill enabling them to meet for educational, social, cultural and sports activities.

One leading human rights activist quickly rejected the offer.

"It is not progress, but a more sophisticated and refined regime of isolation," Yucel Sayman, the head of the Istanbul Bar Association, said.

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