Political prisoners should not be excluded from Turkey's penal reform, U.S. Congress members say

Several United States Congress members have penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to engage with the Turkish government to ensure political prisoners are not excluded from the newly enacted amnesty law.

"We urge you to engage directly with the Turkish government on its COVID-19 prison policy to insist that release policies are offered equitably and consistently, and that certain groups in detention - particularly journalists, activists and other political prisoners - are not excluded for political purposes," the letter said.

The Turkish parliament on Apr. 14 adopted a penal reform bill, that will see as many as 90,000 of the country’s 300,000 inmates set free to reduce the coronavirus pandemic’s threat to the country’s overcrowded prisons.

But, the opposition has criticised the bill for failing to include those imprisoned over terrorism offences, which includes a large number of people, including politicians, journalists, and human rights activists serving lengthy terms for opposing the Turkish government.

"Turkey's crackdowns on journalists and political opposition are fundamentally problematic. To then hold these detainees while other prisoners are released during the pandemic calls into question the true motivation behind these charges," it said.