US Congresswoman Maloney urges release of political prisoners in Turkey

Member of Congress Carolyn Maloney in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the United States to ask the Turkish government to release political prisoners who were excluded from the scope of a release law recently enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons.

In her letter posted on Twitter on May 28 Maloney, the Democratic representative for New York’s 12th congressional district, expressed concern about the exclusion of tens of thousands of political prisoners from the bill passed by the Turkish parliament on April 14.

“To save thousands of lives, I implore you to engage with Ankara and publicly urge the Turkish government to amend the law and allow for the release of these political prisoners on humanitarian grounds,” the congresswoman urged.

“[T]he April 14 legislation explicitly excludes tens of thousands of journalists, human rights defenders, academics, politicians, and lawyers who have been arbitrarily detained under the Turkish government’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws,” she wrote, adding, “The April 14 law also does not allow for the release of those held in pre-trial detention.”

Citing deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Maloney said that “nearly 50,000, or one-fifth of the total prison population in Turkey are journalists, civil servants, teachers, police officers, military personnel, and politicians that have been charged under these broad anti-terrorism laws. …

“It is abundantly clear with the exclusion of these political prisoners that the Turkish government is discriminating against certain prisoners on the basis of their political views, in clear violation of its obligations under international human rights laws.

“Many of these prisoners have been detained and falsely charged with supporting terrorism for simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“I urge you to publicly request the Turkish government to amend this law, release these prisoners, and provide humanitarian relief to those prisoners of conscience.”

Six US congressmen had previously sent a letter to Pompeo and similarly urged the US government to engage with the Turkish government to ensure that political prisoners are not excluded from release policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.

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