Turkish sex crime convicts could be freed by new law – opposition MP

Prisoners convicted of crimes such as wounding, blackmailing, and threatening women, as well as publishing child pornography, have been included in a Turkish amnesty bill passed by parliament, the Mezopotamya News Agency quoted opposition member of parliament Züleyha Gülüm as saying on Tuesday.

Parliament approved amendments to the Law on the Enforcement of Sentences and Security Measures in the early hours of Tuesday that could see as many as 90,000 of the country’s prison population of around 300,000 freed, or released on parole in a bid to ease the threat of coronavirus spreading through over-crowded jails.

The Justice Minister said 17 prisoners in five prisons had contracted COVID-19 and three prisoners had died in open prisons.

The bill had originally included provisions for people convicted of murder and rape to be freed, but they were then excluded from early release after a public outcry.

Gülüm, an MP for the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said people convicted of certain sexual crimes were nevertheless included within the terms of the bill at the last minute.

“There are situations in which the perpetrators of sexual crimes who meet the conditions for transferral to an open prison will be given a prison furlough within a year of finishing their sentences. The furlough will be for three months, they say, but it can be extended for the rest of the year,” Gülüm said.

Prisoners convicted of all crimes were included in the early release scheme, she said, except for those convicted of political crimes, and that no matter how much the government denied it, sex offenders would also end up being freed.

Gülüm said that people jailed for crimes against women and children would also benefit from early release.

“Those who commit crimes against women such as wounding, blackmail, threats, psychological violence, and harassment through social media - except for major crimes - will benefit from the amnesty,” she said.

“However, men who are jailed for these crimes continue to threaten their victims by saying 'I will kill you when I leave’ or ‘I will complete the job I have left unfinished'. Therefore, the crime of injury and threat itself is actually like a crime of killing in terms of the situation in practice. But they will release all of these criminals," Gülüm said.