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Toll rises in Turkey hunger strike

ANKARA, Turkey -- A tenth prisoner has died during a hunger strike in a Turkish prison, human rights officials said.

Turkish prisoner Erol Evcil died on Friday in protest at jail reforms, while doctors have resuscitated another hunger-striking inmate.

The death came hours before human rights activists warned that death was imminent for 60 prisoners among some 1,000 other leftist inmates who began hunger strikes several months ago in protest at new cell-type high-security prisons.

"The death toll mounted to 10 with Evcil's death early on Friday," Sabahattin Esmer of the Human Rights Association said.

"A second prisoner named Mehmet Sahin was first reported dead to us. But we later learned he returned to life after doctors gave him a heart massage."

Prisoners consume vitamins and sugared water to extend the period of their protest.

Prisoners and rights activists oppose the new jails saying they increase the risk of official brutality in jails.

Another rights group, the Human Rights Foundation (IHV) urged the government to take "urgent steps" and start negotiations with the protesting inmates.

"Currently, there are 60 prisoners on hunger strike who face imminent death," the IHV said.

"Transfer of those prisoners to hospitals on the order of the government is not a solution."

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's spokesman said no concessions would be made unless prisoners abandon the hunger strikes.

"It is the president's wish to see an end to the hunger strikes. But it is unacceptable to try to ensure the conditions they want to have in prisons by threatening to end their lives," spokesman Metin Yalman said.

The government has said the cell-style jails are necessary to break the influence of illegal groups, many of them leftist, in crowded dormitory-type prisons.

More than 30 prisoners and two soldiers died in December when security forces raided prisons to halt the hunger strike and to transfer inmates to the new prisons.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Turkish unions back protests
April 12, 2001
Two female inmates starve in Turkish prison strike
April 11, 2001
Third Turk dies in hunger strike
April 8, 2001
Inmates 'beaten' in new Turkish jails
January 6, 2001

Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amnesty International On-line: human rights website

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