217 prisoners held beyond end of sentences on grounds of ‘lack of good conduct’ in Turkey

Turkish prison administrations have denied the release of prisoners on the grounds of "lack of good conduct" even though their court-imposed conditional release dates have passed. Green Left Party MP Serhat Eren said that at least 217 prisoners were trapped in this situation, most of whom were political prisoners.

Hacı Bişkin / Gazete Duvar

Oversight boards in Turkish prison administrations have been denying the release of at least 217 prisoners who have reached their court-imposed conditional release dates due to a “lack of good conduct,” according to Green Left Party (YSP) MP Serhat Eren. 

According to a regulation enacted in 2021, prisoners who have completed their court-ordered sentence are interviewed by an oversight board in prisons when their conditional release date arrives. For instance, a prisoner who received a six-year sentence can have their conditional release date in the third year if the court said so.

Nonetheless, oversight boards have been denying the release of particularly political prisoners on the grounds of “lack of good conduct,” such as not borrowing books from the library, using “too much” electricity and water, or their family visits, according to Ruken Altun from Civil Society in Penal System Association (CİSST). 

"The oversight boards, by placing itself in lieu of the court, act as an intermediary in the arbitrary re-trial and re-punishment of prisoners based on abstract justifications," Altun said. 

For example, Nevzat Öztürk, a prisoner who has been in prison for 31 years, continues to be held on the grounds that he did not "show good behavior" and his evaluation score is insufficient. Although Öztürk applied to the prison administration to benefit from social activities, his request was not met, and his evaluation score was lowered because he did not participate in these activities.

A judge of execution’s office canceled Öztürk's evaluation score by emphasizing "arbitrariness" in the reasons of the oversight board. Despite the evaluation score being canceled, Öztürk’s release was prevented citing the same score.

Helin Akyol from the CİSST stated that these boards also deny the release of prisoners who have been suffering from serious health issues because they have stayed too long in the poor conditions of prisons without having access to proper healthcare. 

The board also deferred the release of Fatoş Demirhan, who had been arrested for her involvement with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and had already served her sentence on March 26, 2023. The board asked Demirhan whether she "would run from HDP if she got out" and postponed her release for six months on the grounds that she "refrained from saying 'Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization,' and acted as if she had never met PKK.” 

According to the Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics, Turkey has an incarceration rate of 355 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, marking the highest rate among member states. The country also has Europe's largest prison population at 303,945.

(English version by Can Bodrumlu)