Turkey’s top court rules 4,25 square meters space sufficient for prisoners

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has said in a recent ruling that 4,25 square meters of living space per inmate in prison, including common living areas, is “sufficient.”

The decision concerns a judge who was jailed following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on charges of membership in the Gülen movement. Mehmet Hani Baki, jailed in the southern province of Osmaniye, filed a complaint against the prison on grounds that the ward in which he is being held had a capacity of 16 but was housing 25 inmates.

The Turkish government has arrested at least 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed on early August 2017.

Once Baki’s demand for a decrease in the number of inmates in his ward was rejected, he then applied to the Osmaniye 2nd High Criminal Court. Baki’s demand was again denied by the court, which led him to take his case to the Constitutional Court.

According to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday, in a statement sent to the top court the prison administration admitted there were only 16 bunk beds in the ward but said the remaining nine people were provided with floor beds. It also said each prisoner was allotted 4,25 square meters of personal space, including common living areas.

The second chamber of the Constitutional Court rejected Baki’s demand for less crowded wards and said the situation was a result of the imprisonment of thousands of people following the coup attempt in 2016.

“As there are 4,25 square meters left per person, including common living areas such as the kitchen and prison yard, a sufficient standard has been established. It cannot be said that occasionally sleeping on the allocated floor bed instead of a bunk bed causes a heavy physical and psychological burden on the applicant,” the ruling stated.

President of the Constitutional Court’s second chamber Engin Yıldırım, however, objected to the ruling. “Overcrowded prison wards can understandably be necessary for a period of time, but in the case of this applicant, it is unacceptable for prisoners to be kept in such an environment for a long period of time, which exceeds a year. Prisoners, including the applicant himself, having to take turns sleeping in front of the toilet for over a year is an affront to human dignity,” he said.

According to a report released by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CH= in May 2018, there are currently 228,993 people in Turkey’s prisons, 140,248 of whom have been convicted of a crime, while 88,745 are in pre-trial detention. These figures show that the prison population in Turkey has increased by 285 percent since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. Due to the high prison population and lack of adequate space for prisoners, more than 20,000 inmates sleep in shifts, the report said.

Turkish prisons host some 27,000 prisoners more than its overall capacity, according to Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi. According to information shared by İlgezdi at Parliament’s Human Rights Commission in February 2018, there are 235,888 people in all prisons across Turkey, which is above the maximum capacity by 27,000 people, or 12,9 percent. Prisoners include 2,949 children and 9,700 women, with 45 among them pregnant, İlgezdi tweeted Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organisation,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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