Turkey is set to release up to 38,000 prisoners

Turkey is set to release up to 38,000 prisoners

Turkey is set to release up to 38,000 prisoners

DHA photo

Turkey is set to release 38,000 prisoners as part of two new state of emergency decrees published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 17, in an apparent move to reduce its prison population to make space for thousands of people who have been arrested as part of a probe into the July 15 failed coup attempt, believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

“The regulation is not an amnesty,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ wrote on his Twitter account, adding that the move entailed the conditional release of prisoners, not a pardon.

In a televized interview, the minister said some 38,000 would be released immediately but the regulation covered some 93,000 inmates, who would be released in time. There are 214,000 people in Turkish jails, he said. 

The decree foresees the release of inmates who have two years or less to serve on their prison terms and allows convicts who have served half of their prison term to become eligible for parole. Some prisoners are excluded from the measures: people convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes against the state.

The measures will not apply to crimes committed after July 1 and will exclude any people later convicted of involvement in the failed takeover. 

As of Aug. 16, there were a total of 213,499 convicts in Turkish prisons, a figure well beyond the capacity of 187,351. There have been reports in the media that jails in the country were suffering severe overcrowding due to arrests after the coup attempt. 

The number is expected to decrease to 175,499 after the release of the 38,000 affected by the new decree.
The releases were due to start on Aug. 17 at noon.

Turkey declared a three-month state of emergency on July 21 after the failed coup bid. During the period, the cabinet has the right to issue statutory decrees under the president of the republic without being subject to the routine procedures and restrictions stipulated by Article 91 of the Constitution.        

The decrees are first published in the Official Gazette before being submitted to parliament for ratification.        
Meanwhile, the decrees published on Aug. 17 also ordered the dismissal of 2,360 more police officers, 24 personnel from the Turkish Coast Guard Command, 112 personnel from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and 196 staff at Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). A total of 2,692 civil servants were also fired. 

Those dismissed were described as having links to U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Meanwhile, according to new decrees, the president can appoint any general or admiral as head of the armed forces, removing the requirement that the military chief be a top commander of the army, navy or air force. 
The decrees also included new regulations on the Public Personnel Selection Exam (KPSS) cheating scandal of 2010. 

The appointments of people who illegally obtained the exam questions in the areas of general culture and general skills on the KPSS will be rescinded, while others who passed the exam on merit will be protected. 
The prosecutor’s office sent a letter to an Ankara court, confirming that questions from the 2010 KPSS test were leaked “at least 12 days” ahead of the exam date and included images of the leaked questions inside the letter.

Questions from the “fraudulent” KPSS in 2010, which was taken by 808,000 Turkish citizens seeking to become civil servants, was initially leaked to Gülen, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said.  
In addition, the decrees paved the way for the return of pilots who previously left or were dismissed from the TSK, if their applications are approved.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık previously commented on the issue, saying the return of the pilots was a necessary step after the suspensions handed out over the July 15 failed coup attempt. Işık said it would be a regulation that would encompass the right of return for officers that were forced out by the Gülen movement.