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Turks fail to act on torture

ANKARA (Reuter) - Disagreement within Turkey's coalition government forced it to withdraw long-awaited draft legislation to shorten periods of police custody and discourage torture.

The changes were seen as an acid test of the government's determination to clean up Turkey's human rights record. The changes would shorten detention periods for non-political crimes to 24 hours from 48 hours and for political offences to four days from 15. They would guarantee the presence of a lawyer during police interrogation. Human rights groups say detainees are most vulnerable to torture when they are held by police, often incommunicado.

Meanwhile, President Turgut Ozal summoned military and civilian leaders to the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir to discuss events in Sirnak, deserted by most of its 25,000 residents on Monday after a two-day battle between troops and separatist Kurdish rebels.