In an attempt to halt the spread of the COVID virus in the Turkish prison system, the ruling coalition in the Turkish parliament has passed a prison amnesty bill. In a deeply cynical move, however, the bill excludes political prisoners. Turkey has the most overcrowded prison system in Europe with a prison population of 300,000, this number has swelled since the attempted coup in 2016 and the frequent abuse of anti-terror legislation to imprison enemies of the regime.
Violation of Turkey’s constitution
The prison amnesty bill, which the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) argues violates the Turkish Constitution, categorically excludes all political prisoners and all those jailed pending trial (even the extremely sick and the elderly). This includes members of parliament, journalists, human rights activists, intellectuals and several mayors. The chief beneficiaries of the bill are mafia leaders, gangsters, rapists and those convicted of various crimes ranging from theft and armed robbery to extortion, money laundering and even manslaughter.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will appeal to the Constitutional Court to attempt to make the bill more inclusive and non-discriminatory. Counter to the claims of the Turkish government, reports from the families and lawyers of prisoners, suggest that there are already hundreds of coronavirus cases in prisons, including some deaths and many severe cases.
Turkey deliberately exposing human-rights defenders to COVID
“Those convicted in unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad antiterrorism laws are also now condemned to face the prospect of infection from this deadly disease…Turkey’s government must do the right thing and immediately release those who are imprisoned solely for expressing their peaceful views.”
Amnesty International Turkey
“It is a great disappointment that the Turkish ruling parties have decided to deliberately expose the lives of journalists, human rights defenders and those whom they deem to be political opponents to the risk of the deadly disease COVID 19.”
Nacho Sanchez Amor – European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey
Sergey Lagodinsky – Chair of European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee
Peoples Democratic Party call for international solidarity
The co-chairs of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar have written to supporters and allies in the international community about the prisoner amnesty bill calling on them to mobilize the institutional mechanisms, resources and relations at their disposal to help build effective international public opinion on this issue.
Öcalan’s lawyers write to Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Due to its extrajudicial nature, Imrali island is not covered by the prison amnesty bill and concerns are growing for the handful of prisoners kept there, which of course includes Abdullah Öcalan. There are fears that the disease could spread to the island which would present a clear danger to Öcalan due to his advancing age, the extreme length of his imprisonment and an environment that increases that likelihood of respiratory infections; cold winters and humid summers.
Öcalan’s lawyers in Asrin Law Office have written to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) demanding that they apply maximum pressure to guarantee;
- information on the situation and condition of the Imralı prisoners from the Ministry of Justice, the Directorate-General for Prisons and Detention and from government representatives
- necessary measures are taken for protection from coronavirus in order to prevent the introduction of the pandemic into the island prison and thus the infection of the prisoners
- take the necessary steps to ensure that, under appropriate conditions, legal and family visits and telephone conversations with Imralı prisoners can take place
You can contact the CPT yourself to support these just demands.