Turkey's opposition says prison early release bill to make space for more dissidents

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said a bill drawn up by the ruling party to free thousands of prisoners early would free up space to jail more dissidents, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"One of the most obvious results of the bill will be that those who receive short-term prison sentences will be imprisoned. Those who express critical views on social media or criticise the practices of the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, frequently facing investigations and legal actions, will now end up in jail," the CHP said.

The bill by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) could see nearly one-third of the country’s nearly 300,000 inmates freed by expanding the criteria for granting early release to lessen the chance that prisons become a hotbed for the deadly coronavirus.

But those jailed for terrorism offences would 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.

The government has misused terrorism charges for political ends and many inmates are held in lengthy pretrial detentions, the CHP said.

The opposition party said the draft law violated constitutional articles on equality before the law.