Amid growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Turkey’s overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, the health and lives of prisoners and staff are at increased risk. The Turkish government is preparing a draft law that will reportedly lead to the release of up to 100,000 prisoners but would exclude those who have been imprisoned unfairly under anti-terror laws simply for exercising their rights, including journalists, human rights defenders, and people in pre-trial detention.
Amid growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, the Turkish government is accelerating the preparation of a draft law that will reportedly release up to 100,000 prisoners. This is a welcome step.
The next hearing in the trial against 18 students and one academic from Middle East Technical University (METU) will take place on 12 March in Ankara. They are facing criminal charges that carry prison terms for allegedly joining an LGBTI Pride Parade on the University’s campus on 10 May 2019. The charges against all of them must be dropped as no one should be prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
The decision to detain Osman Kavala on new charges merely hours after a court-ordered his release must be immediately reversed and he must immediately set free, said Amnesty International.
Ahead of tomorrow’s expected verdict in the so-called ‘Gezi trial’ where civil society leader Osman Kavala and 15 others are on trial on trumped-up charges of ‘attempting to overthrow the government’, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum said: “The outcome of this case will show the rest of the world whether respect for human rights has any part …
“Today’s vindictive request by the State Prosecutor for jail terms of up to 15 years ignores the evidence and defies all logic."
On 12 November, renowned Turkish author and former newspaper editor Ahmet Altan was detained after a court overturned the decision taken on 4 November to release him from over three years in detention. Ahmet Altan is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
More than two years after they were first detained, the honorary chair, the former director of Amnesty International and nine other human rights defenders must be acquitted of the absurd charges they still face, said Amnesty International ahead of their next trial hearing which resumes tomorrow in Istanbul.
The whereabouts of Gökhan Türkmen and Mustafa Yılmaz, who were missing for nine and eight months respectively, have been disclosed to their families by the Turkish authorities. Gökhan Türkmen was registered in police detention on 5 November and Mustafa Yılmaz on 21 October. They have both been remanded in prison pending their prosecution and are being held in Sincan prison, Ankara.
Syrian refugees are still at risk of deportation from Turkey, and the Turkish authorities may implement plans to force large numbers of them to a so-called “safe zone” in northern Syria. This is an active conflict zone, as evidenced by Turkey’s own recent military action in the north-eastern part of the country in October 2019.