PACE rapporteur calls on Spain, Turkey to include opponents, journalists in prison amnesty

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur Boriss Cilevics has called on Spain and Turkey to include imprisoned politicians in early releases prompted by the threat posed by the coronavirus in overcrowded prisons.

Chairman of PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Cilevics also serves as rapporteur on the committee question, “Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandates?”

Cilevics welcomed the measures aimed at releasing from prison non-violent offenders but underlined the importance of the inclusion of Catalan and Turkish politicians, journalists and civil society actors in the amnesty regulations.

“I welcome the measures taken in many countries to release from prison non-violent prisoners who do not pose a threat to society or to apply non-custodial sanctions to them. This is the right thing to do in the face of the threat posed by the spread of the Coronavirus in prisons,” he said.

“Prisoners with political backgrounds, such as the Catalan politicians convicted for their role in the unconstitutional referendum in October 2017, or the Turkish parliamentarians, mayors and other politicians imprisoned for speeches made in the exercise of their mandate, should certainly benefit from such measures,” added Cilevics.

“Having personally met the Catalan colleagues during my fact-finding visit to Spain last February, I am fully convinced that these women and men pose no threat to anyone. The very fact of their detention causes concern, but the COVID-19 crisis should definitely prompt their release. The same is true for the imprisoned Turkish opposition politicians, journalists and civil society actors.”

The Turkish government presented an early parole bill to parliament on March 31 aimed at reducing the inmate population of country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill, which excludes political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws, prompted calls from the UN and the EU for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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