17 Die in Battles in Turkey Prisons

Turkey's attempt to regain control of its prisons ended in bloodshed Tuesday, with two soldiers killed while storming the prisons and at least 15 inmates dead - many from choosing to burn themselves alive rather than surrender. The government, pressing to break up wards controlled by inmates, raided the prisons to prevent some 250 hunger strikers from starving themselves. Inmates linked to outlawed leftist groups launched the hunger strike more than two months ago to protest government plans to transfer them from their wards to new prisons equipped with small cells, where they fear they will be more vulnerable to abuse by authorities. After intense fighting, soldiers succeeded in forcing inmates out of the wards in 18 of the 20 prisons they stormed. Armed inmates were still resisting in Istanbul's Umraniye prison and in a prison in the western city of Canakkale. The Interior Ministry said 78 inmates were injured in the clashes, and another 821 inmates on a hunger strike were hospitalized. Turkey has pledged to reform its judicial system, including abolishing numerous freedom-curbing laws, in its effort to join the European Union, which accepted Ankara as a candidate last year, AP reports.

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