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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 19:23 GMT
Turkish press backs prison operations
An injured prisoner is taken to hospital
Special forces transfer an injured prisoner to hospital
Columnists in many Turkish newspapers have given broad support to the government's decision to launch raids to end the long-running hunger strikes in prisons across the country.

But several commentators questioned the timing of the move and the violence that has surrounded it.

Writing in the liberal newspaper Yeni Asir Mehlika Turkmenoglu described the situation as a "tragi-comedy".

"The government cannot be criticized for conducting this operation but only for doing it so late," she wrote.

"We paid the price yesterday for a government which lacks authority even in its own prisons and for the existence of prison cells where the state's writ had no power for more than nine years.

"A country which cannot guarantee the right to live even in prisons does not deserve any other human right," Ms Turkmenoglu said.

Hornets' nest

Guneri Civaoglu from the mass-circulation daily Milliyet also asked why the government had not acted much earlier and he questioned the methods employed.

"Such an operation was suggested many times by the former ministers of justice and internal affairs, but they could not manage to get a decision backing it... no former government wanted to poke a stick into a hornets' nest," he wrote.

Our leaders... hesitated too long


"The government made every effort to shed as little blood as possible ... [but] it could have used smoke bombs such as are used in other countries, producing less violent results."

Haluk Sahin from left-wing daily Radikal took the same view.

"Our leaders, who fail even at more simplistic questions, obviously and unfortunately failed at these questions too ... they hesitated too long," he wrote.

Smell of death

Hikmet Bila, writing in the left-wing Cumhuriyet, said the government's decision to act had been expected.

"These hunger strikes which had been going on over two months had the smell of death ... While the prisoners were heading towards death minute by minute, their persistence was tearing at the public conscience. Finally the operation was launched and their protest was brought to a halt".

The fundamentalist daily Turkiye gave its support to the government. "Yesterday's sudden operations gave us the hope that the security forces would finally take the control in hand," Yilmaz Oztuna wrote.

"If they keep it tight from now on, if they don't loosen it, the rule of gangs in prison could come to an end and the state will resume control of its own prisons."

Government patience

Writing in the mass-circulation daily Hurriyet, Ertugrul Ozkok said human rights groups had contributed to the rise in tension by encouraging the action of the hunger strikers and criticising the state.

It would be unjust to blame the government


"The NGOs in our country have a natural reflex to take a negative attitude to the state," Mr Ozkok said.

"The state, which is accustomed to using force, has been showing intense patience over the last 20 days.

"It would be unjust to blame the government for any bloodshed from now on," he said.

In an editorial in the Turkish Daily News, Mehmet Ali Birand said the government would win praise at home for finally taking hold of a situation that was spinning out of control.

"Throughout the country the operation was considered a positive development, and a surge in the stock market was the most interesting indicator of public support."

Human cost

Fatih Altayli in Hurriyet criticised the left-wing organizations whose members are involved in the prison hunger strikes.

"These militants who died in vain in the prisons and those who murdered them viciously should know that they don't have the support of the public. Whatever political opinion they have, the man in the street supports the govenment," he said.

A curse on those who play political games with human life


Ilhan Selcuk from Cumhuriyet stressed the cost in human lives.

"Can a country be ruled by its prisons? No," he wrote.

"A curse on those who play political games with human life, be they in the administration or running an anti-government organization. Anybody who, in the lust for power, conducts policies against human life, is nothing but a monster."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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