Duvar EnglishInmate dies of coronavirus in Istanbul's Silivri Prison
Amnesty International has launched a campaign for the release of political prisoners in Turkey amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, saying that their lives are at risk.
"I urge you too release persons who are unfairly detained, including journalists, human rights defenders, activists and others imprisoned simply for exercising their rights," said the petition, which is in the form of a letter written to Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül.
The campaign came after Turkey's parliament on April 14 passed a law that allowed the release of some 90,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding in jails and protect inmates from the coronavirus, but which critics slam for excluding those jailed on terrorism charges.
However grave it may seem, "terror" has taken on a broad meaning in Turkey, essentially used as a way to criminalize any opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), mainly journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and politicians.
3 Nisan'da 90.000'e yakın mahpusun tahliyesini öngören yasa meclisten geçti ancak binlerce mahpus hala #Covid19 riski altında!— Amnesty Turkey (@aforgutu) May 23, 2020
Haksız yere cezaevinde tutulan mahpusların serbest bırakılması için imzacı ol!
➡️ https://t.co/XidcJ8tazd pic.twitter.com/7ERcPzleKI
"Countless people are arbitrarily imprisoned serving lengthy sentences under anti-terrorism laws despite the absence of evidence that they supported violence," said the Amnesty International statement.
The NGO also called for the release of prisoners who are in high risk groups for COVID-19, including older inmates and "those with serious medical conditions."
The statement noted that prominent novelist Ahmet Altan and human rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala, imprisoned for terror-related charges, were both over the age of 60.
Meanwhile, imprisoned former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has been experiencing heart problems in prison, the statement added.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled for the immediate release of both Kavala and Demirtaş, later rejecting Turkey's appeal to the ruling on the former.ECHR rejects Turkey’s appeal over ruling on Osman Kavala
"Stripping these people of parole, when they shouldn't be detained in the first place, will exacerbate the rights violations they are currently experiencing," the statement noted.
The statement also said that Turkey "routinely and punitively" detains citizens on pre-trial, and urged the Justice Ministry to release prisoners on pre-trial detention.
Amnesty International also called for the Justice Ministry to provide sufficient access to healthcare for prisoners who can't be released, noting that the right to health is an international human right.
"In order to be considered accessible, these services shouls first be available to the most vulnerable and marginalized portions of society," the statement noted.
The NGO noted that healthcare includes preventative materials and testing, as well as treatment of COVID-19.
Turkey's Justice Ministry noted that three prisoners had died from COVID-19 so far, while 17 inmates and 79 correctional officers have tested positive.Deputy claims 8 inmates were given one mask to share, no hot water in southeastern Turkey prison39 inmates with coronavirus held in same ward in Istanbul's Silivri prison