Amnesty International started a campaign to urge Turkey's Justice Ministry to release journalists, opposition politicians and activists from prison amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGO noted that jailed prominent novelist Ahmet Altan and imprisoned businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala are both over 60, and former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, has been suffering from a heart condition in prison.
A deputy from the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said that inmates from the southeastern Bayburt Prison reported being given one mask to share among eight of them and a lack of hot water for the past two months. Inmates also reported prison guards who come in close contact with the inmates, violating COVID-19 measures.
Turkey's Constitutional Court (AYM) ruled that ten prisoners' right to free communication was violated when their letters were confiscated. The letters had been about rights violations in prisons in Turkey, and had been confiscated on the grounds that they were detrimental to the prisons.
Hacı Bişkin reports: Istanbul's Silivri prison, which houses 23,000 inmates, has the highest number of prisoners who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus of any penal institution in Turkey. According to the testimony of one prisoner, 39 prisoners with the virus are being held in the same dormitory-style ward.
Turkey’s social services experts and politicians agree that incarcerated minors are under increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the government should make an organized effort to protect them. Suggestions varied from releasing incarcerated children altogether to allowing unlimited phone calls.
Inmates at southeastern Urfa prison have been reporting a serious shortage of cleaning supplies and a lack of precautions against COVID-19, a pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) deputy said. Prison guards also reportedly violate social distancing measures during their ward searches that they conduct in groups twice a week.
Turkey's Justice Minister Gül has said that 120 inmates in four different prisons have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Gül said that none of the 120 inmates are in intensive care units and they are all in good health.
A Turkish court has rejected an emergency plea filed for former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş's release amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Demirtaş's doctor had previously told Gazete Duvar that the renowned politician is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic due to his hypertension and chronic respiratory tract disease.
Selin Sayek Böke writes: The government’s opportunism is striking in the amnesty law. The permanent nature of its amendments is obvious. Just like it had with the 2016 coup attempt, the regime has used the outbreak of the COVID-19 as a “Gift from God.” The bills they pass do not aim at governance but at punishing. Those convicted for leading organized crime will be freed, while those that have pushed for civil society to enhance democracy will remain in jail!
Jailed former Diyarbakir Mayor from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selçuk Mızraklı was denied a petition to be released during the COVID-19 outbreak, to which he's particulary vulnerable due to a chronic heart condition. The Diyarbakir court refused to release Mızraklı on the grounds that his arrest and sentencing involved "special circumstances" and that there was no way to assure safety of his ongoing trial.
Three inmates in Turkey’s open prisons have died from COVID-19, while 17 others were diagnosed with the virus, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said April 13. All cases were in “open prisons” where inmates aren’t held in cells, with no cases seen in other correctional facilities, Gül noted.
Thousands of prisoners are soon set to released over fears of the novel coronavirus spreading through jails. However, bus operators have turned this into an opportunity, demanding outrageous prices from them, reaching as high as 1,200 liras ($188) for one-way ticket. Some of the inmates who could not afford to pay such prices applied to jail management officials regarding this issue, but they have been told: “You are on your own.”
Tensions ran high in the Turkish parliament on April 8 after the AKP and MHP responded to the HDP's criticism of an early parole bill by referring to a statement of the Diyarbakır governor's office that the PKK carried out a blast on a road, killing five civilians. According to the parliamentary minutes, MHP deputy Cemal Enginyurt advanced towards HDP deputy Gülüstan Koçyiğit, prompting other lawmakers to intervene.
A penal reform that is expected to lead to the release of 90,000 prisoners in one stroke amid coronavirus concerns has been submitted to the Turkish Parliament. The legal amendment will halve the sentence issued to inmates, except for those behind bars over charges related to terrorism, drugs, violence against women and children, sexual abuse and deliberate murder.
Inmates in Turkey’s correctional facilities will now be allowed 30 minutes a week on a video call system, in an attempt to limit human interaction and slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, staff at correctional facilities will be kept in isolation on their days off.