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Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 22:31 GMT 23:31 UK
Turkey halts prison plans
Turkish soldiers
Prisons were stormed to break up protests
Turkey says it will not build any more of the controversial new prisons that have sparked hunger strikes in which 29 inmates have died.

Turkish cell
Prisoners say small cells will leave them vulnerable to abuse
Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said once the programme to build new-style jails was complete the government would focus on modernising existing prisons instead.

"From now on, not a single F-type prison will be built anywhere in Turkey," he said, according to Anatolia news agency.

The new F-type prisons, 11 of which are in use or nearing completion, keep inmates in cells of one to three prisoners instead of old-style dormitories.

The government says dormitories encourage frequent riots and hostage-taking, but prisoners complain small cells leave them vulnerable to abuse by prison authorities.

Hunger striker dies

The justice minister's announcement came as 42 protesters were arrested in Istanbul at a demonstration against the new jails.

The protest organiser, the Turkish Human Rights Association, wants charges to be brought against Mr Turk, alleging that he is responsible for the prison protest deaths since the hunger strike began last October.

The hunger strike claimed its 29th life on Saturday with the death of a 47-year-old inmate.

The dead woman, Sevgi Erdogan, was one of some 20 inmates conditionally released from prison in June who continued their hunger strike in a house on the outskirts of Istanbul, the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) said.

In December, Turkish officials ordered jails stormed across the country in an attempt to end the hunger strikes. Some 30 inmates and two soldiers died in the operation.

After the raids, more than 1,000 left-wing inmates were transferred to the new prisons.

According to the IHD, Turkey had planned to build 11 F-type prisons. Four are now in operation, one is ready to be opened. The other six are expected to be completed in the next few months.

About 180 inmates are still on hunger strike and about 50 have been released from jail over the past few weeks because of their deteriorating state of health.

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