Turkey to Release Tens of Thousands of Prisoners to Make Room for Coup Suspects

The Sincan prison near Ankara, Turkey, in 2012. The country said in a decree on Wednesday that it would begin releasing up to 38,000 prisoners, or roughly one in five behind bars. Credit Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Sincan prison near Ankara, Turkey, in 2012. The country said in a decree on Wednesday that it would begin releasing up to 38,000 prisoners, or roughly one in five behind bars. Credit Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Date posted: August 19, 2016

TIM ARANGO and CEYLAN YEGINSU

ISTANBUL — Turkey said on Wednesday that it would empty its prisons of tens of thousands of criminals to make room for the wave of journalists, teachers, lawyers and judges rounded up in connection with last month’s failed coup.

The startling decision to put so many criminals convicted of nonviolent offenses back on the streets is a measure of the strains on the state as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expands a wide-ranging purge of those suspected of being enemies of the government. The efforts have created gaping holes in government institutions, the judiciary, schools, the news media and countless other professions.

Acting under powers granted by a state of emergency and allowing the state to bypass Parliament to enact new laws, Turkey said in a decree issued on Wednesday that it would begin releasing up to 38,000 prisoners, or roughly one in five people behind bars. Most will be freed by the end of the week.

The government has blamed the coup attempt, which unfolded the night of July 15 as a rebel faction of the military sought to topple the government, on Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in self-exile in rural Pennsylvania and whose followers have long filled positions in state institutions, including the military. But the state has gone well beyond arresting only the military officers suspected of planning the coup attempt.

Prisons filled to capacity in the weeks after the coup attempt, and many detainees slept in the communal spaces of jails, often without any bedding, said Ozturk Turkdogan, the president of the Human Rights Association in Turkey. The authorities have also used sports arenas to house the flood of prisoners.

“This is a serious case of bad treatment, and the prisoners are suffering from serious health concerns as a result,” Mr. Turkdogan said.

More than 40,000 people have been detained or arrested on coup-related charges, officials say. Tens of thousands of others, including teachers, police officers, state bureaucrats and even airline employees, have lost their jobs. In some cases, the state has seized assets without due process, activists say.

“There are a lot of arbitrary practices,” said Andrew Gardner, a researcher on Turkey for Amnesty International.

Under the prisoner-release plan, convicted criminals who have served at least half of their sentences will be freed on supervised parole. The government said that those guilty of murder, rape or other violent crimes were not eligible for release.

“The conditions of prisons were already bad before the coup attempt because they were over capacity,” said Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker with the main secular opposition group, the Republican People’s Party. Now, he said, “We have heard reports of two to three people sharing beds and having to sleep in corridors.”

Mr. Tanrikulu said his party supported the prisoner-release program as a necessary measure to reduce overcrowding, but he added that it should have been done in consultation with Parliament. “It is not right to use the state of emergency to subvert the rule of law in Turkey,” he said.

Rights activists have raised concerns that the government is making no distinction between those who committed criminal acts to support the coup and people who might only have donated money to charities linked to Mr. Gulen, held accounts at banks affiliated with him or attended schools associated with the cleric.

At the same time, Mr. Erdogan’s government has accelerated an already widespread crackdown on freedom of expression, shutting down more than 100 news outlets suspected of holding links to Mr. Gulen and arresting dozens of journalists.

Since the failed coup, Turkey has once again become the world’s leading jailer of journalists, a position the country held a few years ago, according to Reporters Without Borders, an international advocacy group.

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a columnist and human rights lawyer who was detained briefly after the coup attempt, referring to the prisoner releases. He said the government would release “thieves, all the criminals, to fill the prisons with intellectuals, writers, human rights activists and others, as well as the coup people.”

The scale of the purges has raised concern in the West that Turkey is backsliding on human rights, after having shown improvement on that front as it sought membership in the European Union.

Amnesty International recently published a report accusing Turkish security forces of beating and torturing imprisoned coup suspects. Separately, photos of prisoners, many of them bruised or with black eyes, have circulated on social media. Turkish officials have denied all reports of torture or other abuses.

At the same time, Turkey has curtailed the rights of prisoners, raising fears that the purges are being conducted beyond the rule of law, and that the accused will be unable to adequately defend themselves.

A decree issued under the state of emergency restricts visits by lawyers and family members. The state now has the right to record conversations between prisoners and their lawyers, and in some cases government officials are present for those discussions.

“This leads to censorship because people fear repercussions, especially in the cases of reporting torture and mistreatment,” said Mr. Turkdogan, of the Human Rights Association. “They can’t share confidential information about their case. Under these conditions, how can anyone defend themselves? Even those that are guilty have a right to defend themselves.”

Source: The New York Times , Aug 17, 2016


Related News

Turkey, caliphate and Erdoğan

The narrative, behavior pattern and policy decisions of Turkey’s chief political Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggests that he believes the caliphate can be resurrected, with himself as the sole contender to become caliph, thereby gaining autonomous political authority over at least part of the Islamic world.

International photography contest “Peace at the Frame”

The Journalist and Writers Foundation’s (GYV) Intercultural Dialogue Platform announces its first, annual photography contest. GYV likes to draw attention one more time to the peace, which is need more than ever these days through art of photography .GYV intends to unite everybody who can put the peace at his/her frame with the expertise of the art of photography.

Kazakh leader heads to Turkey to explain decision over Gulen schools

The official announcement did not provide any details about the visit, but Nazarbayev is expected to smooth over any disagreements between the two Turkic countries following the failed coup. The Kazakh-Turkish schools employ 1,124 teachers, of whom 1,030 are Kazakh citizens (91.7%) and 94 are Turkish citizens (8.3%).” Kazakhstan also has the Suleyman Demirel University, opened in Almaty in 1996.

Response to aspersion on Hizmet

HÜSEYİN GÜLERCE The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) made an important statement on Thursday. Its press release, issued in connection with the recent tension that threatens to disrupt social consensus, seeks to defuse tension with regards to the rift between the government and the Hizmet movement. “[T]he ways in which legitimate demands are voiced should […]

Alevi demands remain unfulfilled as their disappointment grows

SEVGİ AKARÇEŞME, İSTANBUL The democratization package unveiled by the governing AK Party (Justice and Development Party) on Sept. 30 further disappointed already discouraged Alevis who have been expecting the state to officially recognize their houses of worship in accordance with other steps taken to equate all faiths in the country and this frustration led a […]

GYV’s dialogue center not returned despite court order

Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) officials were forced to leave its affiliate Intercultural Dialogue Center (KADIM) office in the Eyüp district of İstanbul despite a court order ruling that GYV could return to the premises after the dialogue center was unlawfully evacuated by municipal police on Dec. 26, 2014.

Latest News

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

In Case You Missed It

Bank Asya weathers withdrawals, says CEO

Fethullah Gulen: ISIL Actions, Disgrace to Faith

Turkey post-coup purges convulse society

Gov’t profiling of individuals found unacceptable, unlawful

PM Erdoğan widens hostile stance to include more and more groups

Erdoğan’s Religious Guide Approved Torture And Abuse In Turkey

Limits of political Islam: the other face of AKP (2)

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News