Fire kills 13 inmates in Urfa prison

Fire kills 13 inmates in Urfa prison

ŞANLIURFA - Daily News with wires
Fire kills 13 inmates in Urfa prison

The government vows to shed light on a fire in Urfa jail that kills 13 people. REUTERS Photo

At least 13 prisoners died from smoke inhalation in a jail in southeastern Turkey, after inmates started a fire during a mutiny, senior officials said Sunday. The prime minister and the justice minister have vowed to shed light on the issue.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the fire affected a ward housing 18 inmates in a prison in the southern province of Şanlıurfa. He said some inmates had set their bedding on fire following a fight which broke out inside the ward late on Saturday.

There were claims that the fight that led to the fire was triggered because of an argument over ventilators and where inmates were to sleep. İbrahim Ayhan, a deputy-elect from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who was jailed for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), was staying in a separate ward and was not affected by the fire, Urfa Gov. Celalettin Güvenç told reporters.

He said authorities had launched an investigation into the incident, including into possible delays by authorities or firefighters in responding to the fire. “Why [firefighters] weren’t there on time, what caused the fighting, why were these people killed? All of these [questions] will be investigated,” Guvenç said.

Erdoğan said he would also order an investigation into the possibility that the ward may have been overcrowded.

“I have been told by the governor that the ward’s capacity may not have been suitable to house 18 people,” he told reporters before his departure to Mexico to attend a G20 summit meeting.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the fire broke out in a cell where prisoners convicted of ordinary crimes are housed. “If there is negligence here, then it is impossible to cover it,” Ergin said.

Turkish Parliament Human Rights Sub-commission Chairman Ayhan Sefer Üstün said the commission will travel to Şanlıurfa as soon as possible and investigate the incident where it took place. “We also need to listen to the prisoners who survived this incident. I believe the incident will be exposed with every aspect,” Sefer said. Ergin said also three of the jail keepers suffered burns from the fire while nine jail keepers were hospitalized with asphyxiation. The situation at the prison was calm on Sunday and Guvenç said prison authorities would grant increased visiting time for families.