Turkey needs lower detention rates during trials of suspects, minister says

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül repeated his emphasis on trial without arrest in a speech during parliamentary discussions on the 2021 budget on Wednesday.

The decision to arrest suspects “should be applied in a measured and proportioned manner,” state-run Anadolu agency cited Gül as saying in parliament.

Gül said the Justice Ministry was focused on completing Turkey’s human rights action plan, that it was preparing a document “with a vision of trustworthy and accessible justice and a participatory and pluralistic approach.”

The action plan will propose new legislation and ways to implement existing laws better, according to the minister.

Gül had spoken in defence of the presumption of innocence as a fundamental principle in law last month and said pre-trial detentions were to be used as a last resort, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement of new reforms for the economy and judiciary.

During the budget discussions, Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan, who replaced Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak after the former minister resigned via Instagram, said Turkey would continue to fight inflation “by protecting macroeconomic stability,” and “accelerate our new reforms in a transparent, predictable and accountable structure.”

“In the upcoming period, we aim to increase employment and the welfare of our citizens with sustainable and quality growth,” Elvan said, as cited by Anadolu.

The decline in Turkey regarding the rule of law and the continued pre-trial arrest of prominent intellectuals in the country contributed to the European Union’s decision to freeze accession talks. Meanwhile, the majority of Turkey’s citizens are demanding radical reforms in both the economy and judiciary, and on Wednesday more than 800 civil society figures issued a statement calling for radical improvements to human rights in the country.

Turkey’s inflation jumped to a 15-month high in November, while the lira lost a quarter of its value this year, falling to record lows against the dollar and only recovering slightly after drastic intervention by the central bank.

In July, Gül announced that Turkey had 232,342 people in prisons who were convicted of crimes, and another 48,752 people in pre-trial detention as of June last year. Responding to a parliamentary enquiry, Gül said the ministry had built 94 new prisons in the last five years, bringing Turkey’s total to 355.

In April, Turkey released some 45,000 convicts and detainees from prisons as part of the country’s measures against the coronavirus pandemic, excluding political prisoners.