6 inmates held in cells designed for 3 in NW Turkey prisons: NGO

The Association for the Freedom of Lawyers (ÖHD) has published an annual report on prison conditions in Turkey’s northwestern Marmara region, which found that six prisoners were being held in cells designed for three, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Wednesday.

During a press conference at its İstanbul headquarters, the NGO announced the findings of the report, collected from 20 penal facilities across the Marmara region.

In addition to overcrowding, the report detailed several other issues such as limits imposed on access to water and cleaning products.

The report also documented unlawful restrictions on social contacts and sports activities.

“The fact that these activities aren’t allowed despite being prescribed by law has turned the inmates’ imprisonment into a punishment within a punishment,” said Zelal Aydoğan, a lawyer with the ÖHD.

The group also reported systemic discrimination against speakers of Kurdish, with prison authorities obstructing the delivery of letters between inmates and their families.

Another problem highlighted in the report was access to healthcare since the imposition of body searches and handcuffs has rendered medical treatment too burdensome or practically impossible for many inmates, according to the report.

Some inmates were reportedly beaten by prison guards for resisting strip-searches. Others faced disciplinary investigations for going on hunger strikes.

The report also addressed the arbitrary denial of parole, a recently emerged problem that especially concerns political prisoners.

“Eligible inmates are being denied release by prison parole boards on subjective grounds lacking any substantial evidence,” Aydoğan said.

Turkey remains the leader in the number of prisoners in Europe, according to the 2022 Council of Europe (CoE) Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations report. In January 2022 Turkey accounted for over a third of all prisoners in CoE member states and a surge of 369 percent in its prison population between 2005 and 2022.

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