[Photo of the week] Prison fire kills 13 inmates in Şanlıurfa

[Photo of the week] Prison fire kills 13 inmates in Şanlıurfa

Inmates in the Şanlıurfa E-Type Prison, where a fire broke out on Saturday after a fight among prisoners, claiming the lives of 13 inmates, were visited by family members. (PHOTO AA, RAUF MALTAŞ)

June 24, 2012, Sunday/ 12:53:00

A fire that broke out after a fight among prisoners at the Şanlıurfa E-Type prison late on Saturday claimed the lives of 13 inmates, raising questions about prison conditions in Turkey.

The deadly fire broke out after prisoners set their bedding on fire following a fight as inmates argued about the high temperatures in the ward and the lack of ventilation. The ward housed 18 inmates, and the remaining five prisoners were injured in the fire. Temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) or even higher in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in summertime.

At least 42 people were injured in a second fire that broke out on Monday at the same prison, shortly after the deadly fire on Saturday. A fire also broke out at the Karaman M-type Prison on Tuesday afternoon, becoming the latest in a series of fires this week in Turkish prisons nationwide.

Several civil society organizations released press statements and held press conferences after Saturday’s fire, indicating that they had warned the Justice Ministry about overcrowded prison conditions.

Ümit Efe, head of the İstanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD), said that the problem of overcrowding in prisons, including that of Şanlıurfa, has been known for quite a long time. “Inmates have been living in very poor conditions in the Şanlıurfa prison, and we have issued several reports to the government about it,” she said.

A sub-commission for prisons operating under Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission visited the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on Tuesday to investigate the two fires that occurred at the Şanlıurfa E-type Prison. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin also said at a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday that his ministry was working to deal with the problems surrounding prisons across the country.

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