[Sinn Fein]

28 June 2001

Government urged to protest to Turkey

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Fein TD urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs to protest in the strongest possible terms to the Turkish government at the gross violations of human rights in its prisons, to demand that the Turkish government abolish F type isolation prisons and resolve the protest which has led to the death of 25 prisoners on hunger strike. He said:

``From late last year hundreds of prisoners from Turkish and Kurdish political organisations have been fasting in protest at the imposition of a new prison regime which adds greatly to the brutality already experienced by political prisoners in that country. Relatives have also fasted in solidarity and are among the dead.

``In our own struggle for freedom 22 people have died on hunger strike since 1920 and three of them - Terence McSwiney, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty - were elected representatives of the Irish people. Kieran Doherty TD was elected in Cavan/Monaghan, the constituency I have the honour to represent in this House.

``A prison protest by political prisoners thus has a deep resonance with the Irish people. And the comparisons between the current crisis in Turkish jails and our own experience in Ireland are striking. In December last year prisoners were forcibly transferred from large dormitory-style prisons to new maximum security prisons with one or three-person cells. This forcible movement took place among scenes of great violence in which prisoners were killed. Just as attempted criminalisation in the H-Blocks replaced imprisonment of political prisoners in Long Kesh concentration camp, so the Turkish regime is attempting to criminalise its political hostages in F-type prisons.

``The prisoners concerned come from a wide variety of political groupings with varying demands. But it is clear that all are victims of prison brutality in a state which is notorious the world over for its human rights violations. Turkey has more than 10,000 political prisoners and they are trade unionists, human rights activists, democrats, artists, socialists, writers, Kurdish nationalists and so on. The torture and isolation in Turkish prisons have been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The Turkish government has remained impervious.

``A media wall of silence has surrounded the prison crisis both inside and outside Turkey. Given the fact that Turkey is one of those states seeking membership of the EU under enlargement, and given the fact that we who opposed Nice were told we were against enlargement and were isolationalist, this media and political silence is indeed ironic.

``I would strongly urge the government to protest in the strongest possible terms to the government of Turkey.''

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