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Inmates, Turkey Prison Guards Scrap

December 5, 1999

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Imprisoned Islamic militants battled security forces inside an Istanbul prison Sunday, injuring scores of soldiers and an undisclosed number of inmates.

Prison official Celil Demircioglu denied reports that members of the banned Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front had taken as many as 150 other soldiers hostage at the Metris prison.

There were also conflicting reports on what prompted the uprising.

The Justice Ministry said it started when authorities sent in soldiers for a surprise search of the ward that houses members of the Islamic group, including its leader, Salih Mirzabeyoglu.

However, Hasan Olcer, Mirzabeyoglu’s lawyer, told reporters that the activists rose up to block efforts to transfer some of them to different prisons.

He said the 65 imprisoned activists had a number of other grievances, including overcrowding in the ward and restrictions imposed on visitors.

Anatolia news agency said 54 soldiers were injured, including one hospitalized with stab wounds.

The Justice Ministry said some inmates were slightly injured but gave no details.

Olcer said the prisoners had taken as many as 150 soldiers hostage and were negotiating with authorities seeking the men’s release.

Demircioglu denied the claim.

``There was no hostage-taking,″ he told reporters.

The uprising was quelled Sunday, but Demircioglu gave no information on any terms for ending it.

Government officials convened in emergency session in the capital, Ankara, to discuss what was only the latest politically related violence in Turkey’s prisons.

Turkish prisons house political prisoners together, often letting them run their own wards. Hunger strikes, rioting and hostage-taking are common.

The government is taking steps to break up the large wards by transferring inmates to jails where they would be kept in smaller numbers in cells.

The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front has been the target of a government crackdown since October, when a bombing claimed by the group killed a prominent pro-secular journalist.

The group has claimed responsibility for a number of other attacks on left-wing and Western-oriented targets.

Police have detained scores of members of the group since the bombing.

Update hourly