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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 16:44 GMT
New death in Turkey hunger strike
A mother of a hunger striker is comforted
Some 62 people have died over two years
A prisoner has died in an ongoing hunger strike to protest against the prison system in Turkey, bringing the number of those who have starved themselves to death to 62.

Feride Harman, who was on a six-month temporary release due to her deteriorating health, died on Sunday night at her home in Aksaray, near Istanbul, after fasting for almost 18 months.

Ms Harman, 27, joined the strike while serving a life sentence in a south-eastern Turkish prison for membership of the extreme left-wing group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C).

Armed guard at lookout point in Turkish prison
Turkish authorities say the old prisons were "training camps" for militants
The protesters have been fasting on a rotating basis, taking only liquids with sugar and salt as well as vitamin supplements to prolong their lives.

The nationwide strike was launched more than two years ago by left-wing prisoners in protest at a government decision to move inmates from communal dormitories to individual cells.

They say that single cells will leave them socially isolated and more vulnerable to abuse by prison guards.

At present, prisoners are held in cells which can accommodate up to 100 people.

Numbers dwindling

However, the government claims the old prisons with communal dormitories had become "training camps" for the left-wing groups, with riots and hostage-taking incidents common.

They also say the new prisons conformed with United Nations and European Union guidelines and that, far from crushing the prisoners, they would allow them to develop their identity away from the ideological constraints of their colleagues.

At one point, up to 750 inmates and their supporters were on hunger strike.

However, this number Is reported to have dwindled to around 20 in recent months.

See also:

09 Nov 02 | Europe
09 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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