U.S. disappointed to see civil society, media, politicians excluded from prison release

The United States said it was disappointed that the Turkish Government's latest release of inmates this week excluded detained civil society, media, political and business leaders, in its first reaction to the early release.

Turkey started releasing thousands of inmates on Wednesday over concerns for their health and safety as some prisoners and wardens tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The law allowing their release was prepared by the ruling coalition, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and passed earlier in the week. The legislation has come under increasing criticism for leaving out journalists, dissidents and political prisoners locked up.

In an e-mail to Ahval, a spokesperson from the U.S. State Department wrote,

"We are disappointed that the Government of Turkey's efforts to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 excluded these detained civil society, media, political and business leaders.  We continue to advocate for the immediate release of all those wrongly detained, including those in extended pre-trial detention."

More than 130,000 public servants were dismissed, following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Most of the dismissed were accused of links to the secretive Gülen movement, followers of Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen that the government holds responsible for the coup, but some were also involved with opposition groups or left-wing organisations. From Kurdish politicians to leftist authors, Turkey's jails host thousands of critical and dissident figures.

The spokesperson's statement started with,

“The United States remains gravely concerned by the detentions of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey who have been detained for exercising their human rights. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are rights fundamental to any healthy democracy.”

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.