Europan Parliament Turkey rapporteur warns political prisoners remain at risk in Turkish jails

Nacho Sánchez Amor

European Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor called on Turkey to stop discriminating against political prisoners amid an increasing number of coronavirus cases in Turkish prisons.

“Today for example, I received news about Silivri Prison, where many prisoners of conscience in Turkey are incarcerated. More than 40 [Covid-19] cases have been identified. Under these circumstances, probably all prisoners are in danger. The point I would like to insist on is this: No discrimination among prisoners. No to the release of people who will endanger public safety with their crimes, yet leave political prisoners in jail,” Amor warned.

In a debate on Monday members of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights discussed with experts and UN officials how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting prisoners often held in overcrowded detention centers, with low sanitary and hygiene standards in many countries around the world.

During the meeting Amor brought up the tens of thousands political prisoners who were excluded from the scope of a recently enacted release law in Turkey that left them in prison to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we need to approach this special situation from a health standpoint. We can always demand the release of political prisoners, regardless of a situation such as the Covid-19 outbreak. I think we need to handle this situation knowing that it is a health issue and we must try to prevent the detainees from being released in a discriminatory manner, as happened in some countries. Political prisoners are generally prisoners of thought and do not pose any risk to the safety of citizens but are still imprisoned. Therefore, in this case, we especially have to work on the health condition of prisons,” Amor said.

There are also detainees in prisons who have not yet been convicted and can technically be considered innocent. Therefore, if there is a valid reason that requires them to go through the judicial process outside prison, this measure should be applied to them. This practice is already part of the execution of sentences system of many countries.

In a move to curb the coronavirus pandemic’s spread to the country’s overcrowded prisons, the Turkish parliament passed a law on April 14 that provided the possibility of early parole or house arrest to inmates, yet excluded political prisoners, who in Turkey include politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial and broadly interpreted counterterrorism laws.

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