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Hunger Strike Claims 3rd Inmate; Government Rules Out Concessions

July 24, 1996

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ A third prisoner died Wednesday in a nationwide hunger strike by nearly 2,000 jailed leftists, as the inmates’ supporters threw firebombs and rioted in Istanbul.

The government ruled out making any concessions to end the 66-day hunger strike, and said it would not force fasting prisoners to eat or drink.

``It is inevitable that further unfortunate incidents will occur if there are attempts to take them to hospital by force,″ Justice Minister Sevket Kazan said. ``So we will be patient for the time being.″

Kazan said authorities have had no control over political prisoners in three prisons. The strikes are being organized from the Bayrampasa prison in Istanbul, where prisoners have smuggled in cellular telephones and fax machines, he said.

A delegation from the justice ministry met with strikers inside Istanbul’s Bayrampasa prison, where the last two deaths occurred among the fasting inmates, but no progress was reported.

In a poor neighborhood of the city, 70 militants attacked stores with firebombs and torched two vehicles, the Anatolia agency reported. They fought with firefighters, but fled when security forces arrived.

Prisoners armed with metal sticks cut from bed frames remained in control of wards in three prisons holding 1,600 inmates.

Inmates in 33 prisons, most of them accused or convicted members of the Revolutionary People’s Salvation Party-Front, have refused solid food to protest beatings, inadequate medical treatment and transfers to remote prisons.

About 275 inmates are refusing even sugared water, and 56 are reportedly in critical condition.

``The strikers were so weak and close to death, I felt I was in a ghost town,″ said Ali Dizdar, a lawyer who visited strikers in the Bayrampasa prison Tuesday. He said several had lost consciousness, their eyesight, or were vomiting blood.

Other inmates are refusing to allow authorities to treat the starving inmates, the government says.

Ilginc Ozkeskin, a 35-year-old jailed doctor who died Wednesday, had been on trial since 1994 on charges of membership in the outlawed group, which seeks a Marxist state in Turkey.

Ozkeskin’s coffin was brought out from the prison wrapped in the front’s flag _ a yellow hammer and sickle inside a star on a red background.

Relatives of the inmates shouted slogans outside the prison, until police took them away.

Police also raided the Kurtulus newspaper, which supports the party, and arrested 16 employees, the left-wing newspaper Demokrasi reported.

The hunger strike began after the previous government carried out large-scale transfers of prisoners to remote parts of the country, and canceled visiting rights for political prisoners.

Kazan _ a member of a recently elected, strongly Islamic government _ has eased some of the restrictions, including scaling back the transfers and allowing visitation rights to political prisoners. But Kazan said the prisons are too crowded and that some transfers are necessary.

There are 9,000 political prisoners in Turkey, where a total of 52,000 people are incarcerated, human rights groups say.

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