Turkish authorities seize prisoners' alleged attack plans

ANKARA, Turkey - Inmates in Istanbul's Umraniye prison, which was stormed by troops last week after a four-day siege, had stockpiled guns, homemade bombs, syringe-tipped arrows and detailed maps of government offices, authorities said Sunday.

Umraniye's inmates were the last to surrender in a protest in 20 Turkish prisons over plans to move prisoners from large, communal wards to small cells.

Government troops retook the prisons Tuesday to prevent hundreds of hunger strikers from dying. Twenty-eight people died in the standoff.

The government said Umraniye was the operations center of a radical leftist group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front.

The raids shattered the group and its leaders were thrown into solitary confinement, Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan said Saturday.

On Sunday, prison authorities displayed alleged plans by prisoners to attack government officers, police stations and military units in several cities, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.

An Uzi machine gun, a semiautomatic Sig Sauer pistol and several homemade rifles also were seized and displayed at a Sunday news conference, along with lances, arrows topped with needles, bombs and makeshift flame throwers.

Eighty-one prison directors and wardens accused of accepting bribes to allow the weapons were fired, and more than 170 others were suspending pending investigation, Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said.

Hundreds of homemade gas masks the inmates used to weather a barrage of tear gas fired by soldiers also were displayed Sunday. The last of the protesters, some 430 inmates, had surrendered Friday. Authorities said they resisted for so long because militant leaders killed at least one prisoner who attempted to surrender and threatened others.

Inmates protesting the prison transfer plan claim they would be more vulnerable to abuse by authorities if isolated in small cells. The government says the communal wards were run by gangs and militant groups, leading to frequent riots.

Some 1,000 prisoners, including members of a different leftist group, have been moved to the new cells. Turk said Sunday that 98 of them were still refusing food.

About 2,000 other prisoners nationwide also are protesting the government's move with a hunger strike, he said.


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