Turkey: Dozens dead in bootleg alcohol poisoning | News | DW | 13.10.2020

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Turkey: Dozens dead in bootleg alcohol poisoning

A sharp rise in taxes on alcoholic drinks has prompted Turks to turn to counterfeit beverages or brew their own in unsanitary conditions. Critics have accused the government of trying to ban alcohol altogether.

At least 44 people in Turkey have died from alcohol poisoning over the past week, state media reported on Tuesday.

In raids across the country, police had confiscated nearly 20 tons of ethyl alcohol and bootleg liquor. At least 58 people have been detained  for producing and selling unauthorized alcohol. Of those detained, seven have been jailed pending trial.

The interior ministry said at the weekend that police suspected some victims of using alcohol-based cleaners to make their own drinks.

Police began cracking down on home brewers over the summer as people turn to cheaper alcoholic drink options, including counterfeit products, following several tax hikes.

Consumption of home-made or distilled alcohol produced in unsanitary conditions have been increasing in Turkey, according to local media.

Since October 9, at least 30 people  have separately been hospitalized from methanol poisoning across Turkey.

The first death occurred on Friday in the western province of Izmir, where 18 people have died, followed by seven other provinces across Turkey, state broadcaster TRT said.

Read more: User safety or censorship? Turkey targets social media platforms

Conservative party slaps more tax

Turkey's conservative Islamic Justice and Development Party (AK) is behind the country's sharp rises in taxes on liquor.

According to Eurostat data, Turkey had the highest price of alcohol compared with the EU and European Free Trade Association countries in August.

The tax on popular Turkish spirit raki has skyrocketed to 443% in the last ten years, data from the finance ministry showed.  A 70 cc bottle of the anise-flavored beverage costs around 170 lira ($21.50, €18.20), taxed 234% over the original price.  The tax on beer has jumped by 365%.

The tax translates into more than 70% of the price of alcohol, Turkey's chamber of chemical engineers said on Monday, accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's conservative government of eventually trying to "ban alcohol" altogether.

The chamber advised the government that tax on alcoholic drinks must be reduced to prevent more fatalities.

Watch video 02:35

High taxes prompt Turks to brew own beer

mvb/rc (dpa, Reuters)

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