At least 44 people have died in less than a week after consuming bootleg alcohol in Turkey, where clandestine production has grown because of high taxes on alcoholic beverages, local media reported on Tuesday.
State-run TRT television reported that the victims had died since Friday in eight provinces including in Istanbul, adding 30 others were taken to hospital.
Police said Tuesday they had arrested 58 people suspected of manufacturing unauthorised alcohol.
Turkish media have reported in recent days several cases of people being poisoned after consuming illegally produced liquor often laced with methanol which causes serious diseases including permanent blindness.
The practice has spread in recent years with the continued increase in taxes for alcohol.
Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative AKP government came to power in 2002, the price of the national alcoholic drink flavoured with aniseed, raki, has jumped.
While a 70cl bottle of raki cost on average 8 Turkish Lira in 2002, today it costs some 170 lira (more than 18 euros).
Erdogan, a pious Muslim regularly accused by his opponents of seeking to Islamise society, has repeatedly taken a stand against the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
In 2013, his government passed a law restricting the hours for alcohol sales, and Erdogan himself has often advised Turks to drink “ayran” made from yogurt instead of raki.