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Inquiry into Turkish prison raids

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkey's parliament is to investigate the prison raids in which 30 inmates died, and which led to a leftist suicide bomber to attack a police station in Istanbul, killing himself and a policeman.

The Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Commission decided on Thursday to set up a sub-commission to look at the crackdown, despite earlier government claims that no civil rights had been violated.

The move comes on the same day a leftist group confirmed it had carried out the suicide bomb attack on Wednesday in response to the alleged violent repression of the prison protest.

The policeman who died in the explosion was buried on Thursday, his coffin draped in the red star and crescent flag of Turkey.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said: "I was very saddened by the attack."

He added: "Our police take great efforts to protect citizens but it seems that they are careless in protecting themselves. That should be the first priority."

Police had blamed the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) immediately after the blast which ripped through the station in the busy commercial centre of Istanbul, injuring seven others.

The party later admitted the attack on its Web site, confirming it had been in response to an army crackdown on hunger strikers in prisons across the country last month in which 30 inmates died.

The bomber, 23-year-old party member Gultekin Koc, had strapped the explosive devices to his body before gaining entry to the station.

He had reached the fourth floor before detonating plastic explosives strapped to his body.

The Web site statement said: "One of our sacrificial fighters entered Sisli security department with a bomb and destroyed an enemy target."

It warned the group would "continue to protect our right to resist in every way" with the aid of its "inexhaustible supply of revolutionaries."

It added: "There is no other way than to answer violence with violence."

The hunger strikers, many of whom are members of the DHKP/C and other leftist groups, were protesting against plans to transfer them to small cell facilities from the current large dormitory wards.

Authorities say the small cells will be easier to control but protesters say they will make them vulnerable to abuse by prison guards.

The statement says the prison deaths were a "massacre" and that the crackdown was part of an attempt to "silence and wear down and destroy revolutionaries, intellectuals, trade unionists, every section of the people which wants what is right, and everyone who engages in thought."

Turkish officials say most of those who died in the prison raids set fire to themselves rather than end their protest.

Turkish authorities have issued a flat denial in the past that they had killed and tortured protesting prisoners.

A justice ministry statement said last week: "It is fiction to say that some prisoners have been shot or burned to death (by security forces) during Operation Return to Life."

State prosecutors have begun an investigation into Human Rights allegations.

Authorities have also displayed arsenals of makeshift weapons they say were used by prisoners against security forces during the raids on prison wings off limits to wardens.

Two police officers also died in the raids.

The DHKP/C is the largest of several leftist groups in Turkey blamed by the government for scores of attacks on police over the last decade and the death of two riot police in an ambush in Istanbul last month.

Turkey also holds the DHKP/C responsible for the 1996 assassination of a prominent Turkish industrialist.

State of alert

Police stations across the country were put on a state of alert after Wednesday's attack.

In a statement, police identified the bomber as Koc, who they said had twice been imprisoned for membership of the outlawed group.

Koc had been born in Erzincan-Cayirli and studied engineering at Sakarya University, joining the DHKP/C in 1995.

During imprisonment he had embarked on hunger strikes.

He was quoted in the statement as having said: "What affects me the most is the correctness of the party's policies ... I have nothing other than the party ... because the period that I have lived through has reminded me that I cannot live as a part of this system."

Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said on Wednesday nearly 400 prisoners were continuing a "death fast," taking only sugared water and other liquid nutrition. The fasts have now entered their third month.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Turkish jail death toll reaches 28
December 23, 2000

RELATED SITES:
DHKP/C
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey

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