Turkish President Erdoğan: Justice Ministry working on partial amnesty for some prisoners

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that the Turkish Justice Ministry is considering whether or not to grant a partial amnesty for some prisoners in response to a bill drafted by his ultranationalist ally the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) and claimed that they would not take any step that would hurt the sensibilities of the people.

According to a report by the pro-government Hürriyet Daily News, Erdoğan stated on Sunday in the Kızılcahamam province of Ankara, where his Justice and Development Party (AKP) held a weekend retreat, that “They say ‘Prisons are now overcrowded.’ No offense, but no amnesty can be issued merely to empty prisons.”

The AKP’s political ally, the MHP, submitted a bill seeking amnesty for some prisoners to the Parliament Speaker’s Office, with party officials saying a total of 162,989 prisoners would “benefit” from the amnesty.

Crimes committed before May 19 will be subject to a one-off five-year conditional reduction of sentences, MHP officials said, adding that those who allegedly committed crimes against the state, along with those convicted of terrorism, sexual abuse and murder would not benefit from the bill.

Speaking on the details of the proposed law, MHP Deputy Chairman Fethi Yıldız said the eight-article amnesty bill excludes prisoners convicted of membership in the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The bill also excludes amnesty for those convicted on charges of crimes against Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, as well as charges of child abuse and fatal domestic abuse, Yıldız said.

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 a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

Erdoğan informed that the Justice Ministry is working on this issue, underlining that the AKP’s criteria on issues like pardoning prisoners has always been and will always be the people’s conscience. “There were so many amnesty laws in the past with an objective to an extent that political gains could be made. We cannot think this way. We have given our instructions to our Justice Minister in accordance with the AKP’s criteria on these issues,” Erdoğan said.

“Justice cannot be provided by acts in haste. It can be provided through laws,” he said, repeating that no such move could be taken on the grounds that the prisons are overcrowded.

Speaking to reporters, Erdoğan informed he could hold a meeting with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli after his return from Hungary later this week if the Justice Ministry could conclude its work on the amnesty.

“The MHP has their own bill. We will prepare our own but it does not mean we will not consider the MHP’s proposals. We will see to what extent we agree or do not agree with their proposals,” he said. Erdoğan will hold a two-day trip to Budapest on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9.

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