Rights organisations urge Turkey not to discriminate against political prisoners in early parole bill

Sixteen human rights and professional organisations urged the Turkish government not to discriminate against political prisoners in its expected early parole bill.

The organisations, including International Association of People’s Lawyers, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), made a joint written statement to call on Turkey not to exempt the release of political prisoners, particularly lawyers, journalists, politicians, artist and human rights defenders.

"The undersigned organisations call on the Turkish Government to avoid any discriminatory exemption, respect the fundamental human rights of all prisoners and ensure that all measures necessary to protect them from all kinds of harms including the COVID19 pandemic are immediately taken," the statement said.

Draft legislation drawn up by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) this week could see as many as 100,000 of the country’s nearly 300,000 inmates freed by expanding the criteria for granting early release following discussions on the possibility of Turkish prisons becoming a hotbed for the deadly coronavirus.

But those jailed for terrorism offences would still be excluded from early release, and that includes politicians and other people who are serving lengthy terms for opposing the government.

This means the new law excludes journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and dismissed public officials jailed for links to what Turkey calls terrorist organisations.