Four die in Turkish police raids
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Four bodies were recovered after Turkish police raided three homes used by leftists on hunger strike to protest against prison reforms.
An official at the Turkey-based Human Rights Association (IHD) said the four people were killed in the raids and state-run Anatolian news agency reported four bodies were retrieved.
But neither provided details of how the deaths occurred.
A police officer at the scene told Reuters that authorities had found the victims already dead underneath their beds after security forces entered the homes.
The state-run Anatolian news agency reported that at least three people had been wounded by gunfire and that one person had set himself ablaze.
Witnesses in Istanbul's Kucuk Armutlu district told Reuters police used armoured cars, tear gas and batons to enter private homes and pull out protesters.
Some of the detained were apparently weakened by months of hunger strike and ferried to hospitals in waiting ambulances.
"Police were firing their weapons at random," the IHD official said, adding that one protester died after setting himself on fire and a home had been burned to the ground.
The raids followed press reports accusing police of not doing enough in the district of the raids. Anatolian news agency said six people had arrived at one hospital with injuries.
Hundreds of leftist prisoners and a few dozen of their relatives have been in hunger protests since late last year in protest at new cell-based jails that replace large dormitory wards.
The death toll from the hunger strike stood before Monday at 42.
Protesters, joined by human rights activists and some European critics, have said the new maximum-security jails isolate inmates, putting them at risk of police brutality.
In September a suicide bomber claimed by the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) killed himself, two policemen and an Australian tourist in a bomb attack the militants said was in protest at the prison raids.
Last December, authorities stormed jails across the country in a bid to end the hunger strike and force the transfer of inmates to the new high-security jails. Two soldiers and 30 prisoners died in those raids.
The hunger strikers take sugar and some nutrients in order to prolong their lives and their protests.
Turkish justice officials say the new jails with their smaller cells meet European standards and are needed to break the influence of radical political groups over crowded prison dormitories that are run beyond the control of police.
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Republic of Turkey
European Human Rights Foundation
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