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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Turkey hunger strike claims new victim
A mother of a hunger striker is comforted
Protesters say the system leaves inmates open to abuse
A former prison inmate has starved to death in Turkey, the 50th such victim in a hunger strike begun by activists protesting against Turkey's prison system.

Meryem Altun, a member of the outlawed People's Revolutionary Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, died in an Istanbul hospital on Sunday night after refusing food for 302 days, prisoners' solidarity group Ozgur Tayad said.

Prison in Izmir
The government says it is trying to modernise the way prisons operate
Altun was the eighth person to die in the hunger strike this year, and was among more than 100 taking part.

Earlier this month another female protestor, Yeter Guzel, died in hospital after refusing food for seven months.

She had earlier been freed pending trial on charges of belonging to an illegal far-left group.

Protest

Left-wing prisoners - and some of their supporters - launched the hunger strikes in October 2000 in protest at the government's policy of moving inmates from large dormitories housing up to 100 people to small cells for up to three people.

They claim the cells make them isolated and vulnerable to abuse by guards.

But the Turkish Government counters that the large halls were virtual training camps for militants and a breeding ground of riots.

It has also consistently claimed that hunger strikers are pressed to fast by extremist political groups who maintain discipline within the prisons through intimidation.

See also:

09 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Turkey's soul searching
10 Jan 01 | Europe
Shadow hangs over Turkish jails
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