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Turkish Prison Protester Dies Following Hunger Strike

In Turkey, the death toll in a 10-month long hunger strike by opponents of prison reforms has risen to 37, with the death of a woman hunger striker in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul.

Zeynep Arikan died Wednesday in an Istanbul house where 10 other left-wing activists are keeping up what they call a death fast to protest prison conditions in Turkey.

The 33-year-old was a former prisoner and a member of the left-wing People's Revolutionary Liberation Front. She had begun her fast while in prison and continued it after her release in July, refusing all food and subsisting on a diet of sugared water and vitamin pills. She died on the 340th day of her fast.

Hundreds of prisoners in Turkey, as well as some of their supporters outside prison, have been refusing to eat for months now. They are protesting the forcible transfer of inmates from large dormitory-type wards, which house up to 60 inmates, to new maximum-security jails with one to three-person cells.

The Turkish government continues to resist prisoners' demands to return to the dormitory-style prisons, saying they had become training and indoctrination centers for extremist groups.

In December, Turkish security forces raided over 20 prisons across Turkey in a bid to end the mass hunger strikes. At least 30 inmates died during the operation which Turkish authorities called "Return to Life."

Human rights groups have since produced evidence based on forensic reports showing that many of the inmates died as a result of police violence and not because they had, as claimed by the authorities, set themselves on fire.

There is little public sympathy for the hunger strikers because of their affiliations with armed extremists groups that are blamed for a series of terrorist attacks.

Two weeks ago, the People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, the group Ms. Arikan belonged to, claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in central Istanbul. Four people, including an Australian tourist, died in that attack.