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Student killed in Kurdish protest in Turkey

ANKARA – The Associated Press | 12/7/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Police clashed with pro-Kurdish demonstrators denouncing new prison conditions for outlawed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on Sunday. A 23-year-old university student died in hospital following the clashes, news reports said.

Police clashed with pro-Kurdish demonstrators denouncing new prison conditions for outlawed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on Sunday. A 23-year-old university student died in hospital following the clashes, news reports said.

Protesters in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır hurled stones and fireworks at police and at the local headquarters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling party.

The state-run Anatolia news agency said police responded with pepper gas to disperse the crowds.

The university student, identified as 23-year-old Aydın Erdem, died of gunshot wounds in the hospital, broadcaster CNNTürk and other reports said, but there were no immediate details on how he got shot.

Police also broke up other pro-Kurdish protests in Istanbul and in at least three other cities in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast, NTV television said.

At least one police officer was injured in the clashes, Anatolia said.

Turkey built a new maximum security prison on Öcalan's prison island and transferred inmates there to end his isolation.

Öcalan has complained about conditions at his new cell, triggering protests by his supporters. The leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, said in a statement released by his lawyers last month that his cell was smaller and that he had difficulties breathing.

Turkey denies prison conditions are worse and has invited European anti-torture inspectors to visit his new prison cell.

Turkey built the new prison after the Strasbourg, France-based human rights body, the Council of Europe, demanded that Turkey end Öcalan's solitude, saying his mental state was deteriorating after spending years as the sole inmate of İmralı island, off Istanbul.

Öcalan, 60, is serving a life sentence for leading the PKK's campaign for autonomy that has led to tens of thousands of deaths since 1984.

He was initially sentenced to death after his capture in Kenya in 1999, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2002.

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