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“Turkish Army used Gas against prisoners, paper says”

6. July 2001

Report investigates reasons behind December deaths of leftist inmates

ATHENS / by Gerd Hoehlerg

A forensic medical report published in Turkey has shed new light on the events which took place when authorities stormed 20 prison facilities on December 19, 2000.

The government intended its “Operation Back To Life” to put an end to the hunger strikes being waged by a number of left-wing prisoners.

When police and military units finally moved in and stormed the prisons, 26 inmates were killed and a further 103 injured. According to the account provided by Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk, the majority of the deaths resulted from self-immolation.

However, a forensic report published in the centre-left Istanbul newspaper Radikal concluded that at least six inmates at Istanbul`s Bayrampasa prison died from the effects of inhaling gas the army used in storming the prison. The report said that too much gas was used and that the gas cartridges used were generally not appropriate for use in enclosed spaces.

Doubts have been raised regarding the official version of events not only by the report in Radikal but also by the paper`s publication of an interview with a former inmate, Elif Dincer. She was present when authorities stormed the C-1 sleeping quarters in Bayrampasa, and was seriously injured by some kind of chemical substance used in the attack.

The units were said to have made between 30 and 35 holes in the roof, dropped gas bombs and then sprayed some form of liquid chemical substance.

“When I put my hand on my head, I noticed my skin began to dissolve,” said Dincer – the former inmate still has scarring to her face and body caused by burns. In storming the prisons, the government failed to succeed in its goal of ending the hunger strikes.

There are still around 200 prisoners involved in so-called death fasts.
So far, 26 inmates and sympathisers not in prison have starved to death.

Press Agency Ozgurluk
In Support of the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Struggle in Turkey