Ninety-eight inmates at an East German jail went on hunger strike Saturday in support of fellow convicts who are protesting on the roofs of several prisons since Wednesday.
The inmates said they wanted the government to declare a general amnesty Oct. 3, the date set for German unification, because many sentences handed down under the communist government ousted last fall were overly harsh and should be reviewed.Several mutineers have threatened to commit suicide by jumping of the prison roof Monday if negotiations with East German parliamentary leaders have not begun by then.
"The drama can hardly be controlled any longer. I am sure the first one will jump soon if nothing happens now," the German press agency quoted prison priest Johannes Drews as saying.
East German Interior Minister Peter-Michael Diestel was expected to come and talk with the protesters Saturday.
Drews cares for the 1,000 prisoners in the Brandenburg prison, just outside Berlin, where four inmates began the protest on the roof Wednesday.
Since then, the revolt has spread to several other prisons.
In East Berlin and the northern city of Schwerin, a total of 32 convicts have climbed on top of buildings, and the inmates of the largest East German women's jail began a sit-in supporting the demands for a general amnesty.
Diestel of the Christian Democratic Union and Manfred Stolpe of the opposition Social Democratic Party had already visited the four prisoners at the Brandenburg jail Thursday.
"We demand a re-examination of our sentences," the three convicted murderers and one arsonist said in a statement.
"We don't want to blackmail anybody, but we see no other possibility than to take this action to illustrate our problem," the statement said.
A number of East Berlin prisoners have also asked for guarantees that they will not be transferred to West Berlin prisons saying they fear they may catch AIDS there.