AKP’s parole bill an arbitrary, secret amnesty, says Babacan’s DEVA party

Former Turkish Finance Minister Ali Babacan’s new opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) has blasted a penal reform bill seeking to release a large number of people held in Turkish prisons, calling the proposed law a covert special amnesty to a select group of the country’s inmates.

The bill, which excludes those found guilty of serious crimes including terrorism, was prepared in an "unjust and unequal approach, which does not befit the principal of the supremacy of law," DEVA founding member and lawmaker, Mustafa Yeneroğlu said.

"This bill, which affects a large segment of society and by character is a secret amnesty, is a manifestation of the long-time arbitrary law-making in the Turkish parliament, the overlooking of common consensus, and the brushing off of the opinions and suggestions of all parties, bar associations, academics and civil society organisations," Karar newspaper quoted Yeneroğlu as saying.

The bill by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could see 90,000 of the country’s nearly 300,000 inmates freed by expanding the criteria for granting early release to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal fails to include however those imprisoned over terrorism offences, which includes a large number of people, including politicians, serving lengthy terms for opposing the Turkish government.

While the AKP government, which until recently said the state could forgive crimes committed against it, but could not do so for crimes committed against citizens, it is today, through this bill, saying the opposite, Yeneroğlu added.

This bill could have eased the ramifications of the years-long arbitrary designation of terror-related crimes but fails to do so, the DEVA MP said

The Turkish government has jailed journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights defenders and dismissed public officials, particularly after the July 2016 coup attempt, over links to what Ankara designates as terrorist organisations.

Almost one-fifth, 48,924, of the total Turkish prison population had been charged with or convicted of terrorism offences, according to the Ministry of Justice’s June 2019 data.