Political prisoners to be left out of Turkish government’s general amnesty bill 

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is preparing to grant amnesty to a large number individuals currently serving prison sentences, with the exception of political prisoners, the Birgün daily reported, citing claims in the local press.

The claims were based on a statement by AKP member Galip Ensarioğlu saying that ahead of the local elections in March 2024, the AKP and its close ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), were drafting a bill to be presented to the Turkish parliament. 

The proposed bill would ensure the early release of men who were imprisoned for marrying underage girls and prisoners who were convicted of sexual crimes, drug offenses, manslaughter and assault.

This is not the first time the AKP government will be leaving political prisoners out of a general amnesty. In 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government allowed a third of the country’s prison population to be released. 

However, jailed human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians were not among those considered for early release. Political prisoners who were already struggling with other diseases were exempted by the government. 

As a result of this controversial move, many political prisoners either became sick with the virus or died from it. 

One of the most notorious cases concerned 84-year-old Nusret Muğla, who was serving a sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, which has been designated as a “terrorist” organization by the Turkish government. 

Muğla, already suffering from several other ailments, died in prison last year due to the coronavirus.  

During the pandemic, Züleyha Gülüm, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Turkish prisons were turning into scenes of massacre and that political prisoners were the most adversely affected.

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