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Protests Against Turkish Prisons

August 20, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Turkish police detained about 40 relatives of prisoners Sunday during a second consecutive day of protests against plans to break up the country’s large prison wards, the Anatolia news agency said.

Details of the protests were not available. Istanbul police detained a total of 80 relatives over the weekend.

Tension is running high in prisons, where the government plans to move inmates from large dormitories to cells that hold one to three people.

Prisoners call the smaller cells ``coffins.″ Human rights groups and families of inmates say the cells would leave prisoners more vulnerable to prison guard abuse, something rights groups say is common in Turkish prisons.

Under the current system, inmates live in wards of up to 100 prisoners and officials claim political inmates run their wards like indoctrination centers. Authorities say about 10,000 of Turkey’s 74,500 inmates are linked to leftist, Kurdish or radical Islamic groups.

Authorities say the new system is aimed at ending the inmates’ virtual control of overcrowded and understaffed prisons, which are often rocked by hostage-takings and hunger strikes.

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