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Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 18:44 GMT
The battle of Bayrampasa
istanbul
Militants and their role models in an Istanbul prison
Conflicting accounts have appeared in the Turkish and Kurdish media over why so many people were hurt during the security operation in Istanbul's Bayrampasa prison.

The Turkish Health Ministry said in an initial statement that a total of eight people died there, five in the prison itself and three later in hospital.

It added that of the 81 prisoners hurt, 66 had been hospitalised.

However, one newspaper, Radikal, reported that 14 of the prison's estimated 300 inmates lost their lives.

Bayrampasa housed militants from the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), the Turkish Workers and Peasant Liberation Army (TIKKO), the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party [MLKP] and the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK].

The mass-circulation daily Milliyet said that, when they first entered the prison, the security forces could not believe how much it had been altered by the inmates.

"There were doors where the walls were supposed to be and doors had been turned into walls," it said.

Another mass-circulation newspaper, Hurriyet, carried a graphic account of the conditions encountered by the security forces.

It said the eyewitness was a soldier who took part in the operation.

The soldier's tale

"We entered C-Block where the militants were housed," the soldier said.

"We urged them by Tannoy to surrender. The prisoners started shouting slogans and setting their beds, quilts and blankets alight. We repeated our surrender request and the PKK militants surrendered...

"We regained control of the cells in C-Block, one after another. But in the section where the terrorists were housed we could hear bombs exploding, and automatic rifle fire.

bayrampasa
At least eight died in the Bayrampasa operation

"The terrorists connected the cells of the block by boring holes through the walls. When their resistance weakened in one cell, they retreated to another. We had to break in through the walls to intervene when the fires started...

"Meanwhile the leaders of the organisation were issuing their orders. But the most horrifying thing was that the leaders poured petrol on the militants and set them alight with matches. We were too far from the burning militants to intervene."

The inmate's tale

Birsen Kars, who had been in Bayrampasa for five years, was among those who suffered serious burns during the course of the security operation.

According to Milliyet, she blamed her fellow militants for her condition: "They set six of us women alight", she said.

But the pro-PKK television channel, Medya TV, which broadcasts from Paris, quoted two unnamed female inmates from Bayrampasa as saying six of their colleagues had been "thrown into the fire alive by the Turkish police forces".

"Six people were killed in the fire. Six persons were burned alive. They were burned alive," one of the prisoners told the TV as she was taken to hospital.

Appeal

Kiraz Bicici, a deputy leader of the Istanbul Human Rights Association, told Medya TV that while some prisoners may have committed suicide, most of the casualties had been caused by the excessive use of force by the Turkish authorities.


Unbelievable massacres have been carried out in 20 prisons in Turkey. I would like to tell this to the whole world

Kiraz Bicici

"Once again, the state showed its true face," she said.

"There may have been some who committed self immolation. But the real reason for the deaths were the light anti-tank weapons and tear gas bombs. The inmates were burned by them", she said.

"Unbelievable massacres have been carried out in 20 prisons in Turkey. I would like to tell this to the whole world and call the whole world to be aware of this issue."

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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21 Dec 00 | Europe
Turkey troops break jail revolt
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