60,000 suspects to wear controversial prison jumpsuits

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In this photo released 18 January 2002 by the Department of Defense, Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the surveillence of US military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility 11 January 2002. AFP PHOTO / US NAVY / Shane T. McCOY / AFP PHOTO / DOD / US NAVY / SHANE T. MCCOY

A new state of emergency decree that stipulates all convicts and suspects under arrest for alleged crimes against the constitutional order in Turkey wear jumpsuits identifying their supposed crime will cover about 60,000 people in prisons, the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reported.

According to the report, about 60,000 of all 229,000 people currently in jail are being tried on terrorism or coup attempt charges. Some 53,500 who are accused of terrorism will wear gray jumpsuits, while 6,500 accused of involvement in a coup attempt will be required to put on brown jumpsuits.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been arrested since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on suspicion of ties to the faith-based Gülen movement.

According to decree No. 969, pregnant prisoners and children will be exempt from the regulation, while rules for female inmates in general will be decided later.

The prison jumpsuit decision fueled reactions from opposition parties and human right organizations.

Deputy Chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Bülent Tezcan said on Sunday that jumpsuits required for suspects would be a violation of the presumption of innocence. “It shows a prejudice for conviction during trial proceedings,” he said.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) imprisoned co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, on Sunday slammed the latest government decree: “We prefer to be wrapped in burial shrouds instead of kowtowing to fascism and wearing prison uniforms.”

Ten HDP deputies, dozens of mayors and hundreds of party members have been in custody since last year on terrorism accusations.

A European Union spokesperson said in early September that reports of a government plan for suspects standing trial on coup charges in Turkey to wear identical uniforms were worrying. Underlining the significance of respect for the right to a fair trial and a commitment to a state of law, the EU spokesperson said: “The European Union has on many occasions stressed that any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process and that the right of every individual to a fair trial needs to be respected, as well as the principle of the presumption of innocence.”

Former European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judge Rıza Türmen had said in August 2017 that obliging all suspects in ongoing trials concerning the failed coup to wear identical uniforms is against human rights and violates the right to a fair trial.

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