Turkey began releasing prisoners on April 15 after passing a bill on releasing thousands of convicts and arrestees to ease overcrowding in prisons in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The release process of some 90,000 prisoners was launched after the law backed in parliament on April 14 was published in the Official Gazette a day later.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supported the bill, which was accepted with 279 votes for and 51 votes against in the 600-seat chamber.
The law paved the way for the temporary release of around 45,000 prisoners to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Those eligible will be released under judicial control until the end of May and the Justice Ministry will be able to extend the period twice by a maximum of two months each time, according to the law.
A similar number will be released permanently under a separate part of the legislation aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.
The legal amendment enables home confinement for some inmates over 65, women who have children aged six and under and sick prisoners who cannot take care of themselves. It also brings measures for inmates with communicable diseases.
Inmates were seen getting on buses under tight security measures to prevent possible overcrowding by their relatives. They will be transported to previously determined to locations.
The Justice Ministry introduced measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus during the release process, including informing inmates on the virus and handing them masks and gloves to wear when they leave prisons.
Erdoğan praises law
A day earlier, Erdoğan praised the law over “meeting the expectations of the citizens at a higher rate regarding the manifestation of justice,” despite criticism of it for leaving politicians and journalists out.
Erdoğan said in a statement that the country started a comprehensive study which will completely reconsider the crime and sanction balance in Turkey’s penal code.
The publication of the new law will allow many convicts to leave the prisons in accordance with the changes to the execution periods, Erdoğan said, adding, “I believe that these citizens will not disappoint the state and society.”
“We know that we have a lot more to do in the pursuit of justice, a never-ending ideal of humanity,” he added.