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Justice Minister’s Resignation Demanded After Inmates Die

August 5, 1989

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The main opposition party and a human rights group called Friday for the justice minister to resign because of the deaths of two leftist prison inmates on a hunger strike.

Social Democrat Populist Party spokesman Cevdet Selvi said Justice Minister Oltan Sungurlu was responsible for the deaths of the two inmates, who had been on a hunger strike for 35 days.

The inmates died Wednesday after they were transfered along with 310 other prisoners from Eskisehir Province to a prison in Aydin, about 300 miles to the west.

Prosecutors said the inmates, Mehmet Yalcinkaya and Huseyin Husnu Eroglu, died of dehydration.

The inmates were among 280 prisoners who began a hunger strike at Eskisehir prison June 28 to protest restrictions imposed by authorities following the discovery of an escape attempt.

The hunger strikers claimed they were not fed sufficient meals and were not allowed to go outside for air.

Sungurlu told reporters Friday that the ″hunger strike was a political action and the fasting prisoners refused any kind of medical help.″

The independent Human Rights Association said Friday that Sungurlu should resign and should also face prosecution for what it called his ″irresponsible attitude toward the problem.″

Authorities said the transfer of prisoners from Eskisehir was necessary so that workers could repair the damage to the prison caused by the digging of two escape tunnels.

Yalcinkaya, 28, had been sentenced to death for being a member of the outlawed Kurdish Labor Party. Eroglu, 31, was on trial on charges of being a member of the same party.

A wave of political terrorism, pitting members of a dozen military leftist groups against extreme rightists, claimed 5,000 lives in Turkey prior to the military takeover at the end of last decade.

According to statistics complied by the Human Rights Association, 1,542 terrorist suspects are still in prison and still on trial and 1,357 are serving sentences.

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