One Big Thing: Should Turkey extend the release of prisoners to journalists and human rights activists, who were arbitrarily detained?
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What is it?
- On April 13, Turkey’s parliament passed legislation allowing for the early release of up to 90,000 prisoners to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of the human rights activists, journalists and others unjustly imprisoned by the Turkish government will not be released by the new law.
- The European Parliament called the law “a great disappointment” and 24 prominent international human rights groups have signed a statement calling for the release of those arbitrarily detained.
- Overall, Turkey has 112,261 reported cases – currently the 7th most cases in the world, ahead of China and Iran, which both had the highest cases early on in the outbreak.
Why is it important?
- Turkey has one of the highest prison populations in the world with nearly 300,000. Prisons across the world have become hotspots for COVID-19.
- Currently, 17 prisoners and 79 prison staff have tested positive and three prisoners have died of COVID-19. There is a dire need for adequate health care and further access to testing. Most prisoners cannot practice social distancing due to living in close quarters and, therefore, are at heightened risk of infection.
- Turkey’s government has systematically silenced journalists, opposition politicians, and other critics through a regime of fear and unjust imprisonment prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. A report found that 17 percent of Turkey’s entire prison population was convicted for “terrorism offenses” – under the broad and vague definition used by the Turkish government to falsely imprison it’s enemies.
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