Prominent human rights advocates call on Turkey to release political prisoners

A group of prominent academics, jurists, journalists, politicians and human rights activists published a joint letter on August 24 calling on Turkey to urgently release political prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The notoriously overcrowded prisons in Turkey pose serious health threats to inmates during the pandemic, the letter said.

The letter, initiated by the Advocates of Silenced Turkey, a New Jersey, US-based non-profit organization, was signed by 205 individuals including Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the Gandhi Development Trust; Amina Frense, chairperson of the South African Institute for the Advancement of Journalism; David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state; Hillman Frazier, Mississippi state senator; and Kisten Govender, a member of the South African Legal Practice Council.

Referring to a coronavirus release law enacted by Turkey in mid-April that allowed some 90,000 inmates to be released from the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the pandemic, the letter emphasized that the law excluded thousands of prisoners serving time for political crimes.

“As many prominent human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, acknowledged, those inmates are being held in pretrial detention or sentenced without evidence that they committed violent acts, incited violence, or provided logistical help to outlawed armed groups and their lives are at risk,” it added.

The inmates’ right to life is under clear, serious, and imminent threat, the signatories stated, expressing their concern about the health of prisoners and calling on the Turkish authorities to urgently release the political prisoners and the prisoners of conscience in Turkish jails before the risk of mass death hits.

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