As the threat of COVID remains present in Turkey, in particular with recent cases of infections in prisons, the lives of thousands of prisoners and staff in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons are at increased risk. On 13 April, Parliament passed a law that would allow the early release of up to 90,000 prisoners. However, the law excludes many prisoners that should qualify for early release, including journalists, human rights defenders and others imprisoned unfairly under anti-terror laws simply for exercising their rights, and people in pre-trial detention.
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Mr Abdülhamit Gül
Minister of Justice
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I have learned that Parliament passed a law on 13 April which will allow the early release of up to 90,000 prisoners. In the context of the deadly spread of COVID-19 across Turkey, any decrease of numbers of prisoners in Turkey’s overcrowded and unsanitary prisons is a welcome step.
However, the law fails to include many persons who should qualify for early release, and as a result, is putting the lives of thousands of prisoners and staff at serious risk. According to your own figures, at the time of writing, three prisoners have died, and 17 prisoners and 79 prison staff have tested positive.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, I urge you to immediately release unjustly imprisoned people including journalists, human rights defenders, activists and others jailed unfairly under anti-terror laws simply for exercising their rights; give urgent consideration to the release of those held in prison on pre-trial detention who have not been convicted of any offense and those who are at particular risk in prison from COVID-19 where their health cannot be guaranteed; ensure that those who cannot be released have access to medical attention and healthcare to the same standards that are available in the community, including when it comes to testing, prevention and treatment of COVID-19; and ensure prison staff and healthcare workers have access to adequate information, equipment, training and support to protect themselves.