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Turkish Prisoner Dies - 2001-08-03

A hunger strike by Turkish prisoners has claimed another victim. The death toll in the eight month protest over prison conditions in Turkey is now at 30.

The latest prisoner to die was 28-year-old Muharrem Horoz. Horoz, a member of an outlawed left-wing group, was imprisoned for his role in a 1999 bomb attack in the Central Anatolian province of Cankiri in which three people were killed. A human rights group in the area said Horoz died at a hospital Izmit in northwest Turkey after continuing to refuse food.

Hundreds of mainly left-wing inmates and their sympathizers have been fasting for months to protest conditions in Turkey's new maximum-security prisons.

Prisoners say the new prisons, made up of small cells that accommodate no more than three people, leave them isolated and vulnerable to abuse by prison officials.

But government officials insist the new jails are necessary. They say the old-style prisons, where inmates were held in large dormitory type cells of up to 60 people, allowed militant groups to virtually dictate what happened in the cells. Riots and hostage taking occurred frequently in the larger wards. The officials say the larger cells also served as indoctrination and recruiting centers for outlawed militant groups.

Western rights groups accuse the Turkish government of failing to allow inmates at the new prisons to freely take part in communal activities. Prison officials say only inmates who can prove that they have abandoned their radical views and are now loyal to the Turkish government are permitted recreation time with fellow inmates.