Bootleg alcohol kills 22 in Istanbul, 16 others in critical condition - governor

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ANKARA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - At least 22 people died and 16 others were in critical condition in hospital after consuming bootleg alcohol in Istanbul, the local governor's office said on Friday, adding that four people had been arrested over the matter.

Turkish authorities have recently intensified a crackdown on bootleg alcohol ahead of New Year celebrations, carrying out many operations nationwide targeting sellers and distributors.

In a statement, the Istanbul governor's office said 11 of those who died were foreign nationals as well as five of those hospitalised. It said a total of 46 people had been admitted to hospital for alcohol poisoning.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party has imposed high taxes on alcohol. The tax on the national favourite raki, an anise-flavored spirit, has skyrocketed in the past decade.

Prices of alcoholic drinks at markets, restaurants, and bars have jumped in recent months due to the high taxes and a surge in inflation.

Economists have said the excessive taxation of alcohol will encourage people to consume counterfeit products or brew their own drinks at home, causing an increase in the state's health expenses and leading to many preventable deaths.

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Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu Editing by Gareth Jones

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