A report drafted by the Jurists for Freedom Association (ÖHD) has revealed that inmates in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, as no measures are being taken to protect them.
More than 300,000 inmates in Turkey’s prisons have been a matter of serious concern for human rights organizations and their families since confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Turkey on March 11.
Rights groups have been calling on the Turkish government to release inmates or put them under house arrest as some countries have done in the wake of the global pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 30 people in Turkey.
The ÖHD report, titled “COVID-19,” was drafted following inspections of some prisons in Turkey’s east and southeast regions.
The report shows that inmates in some prisons are not given disinfectants or cologne to protect themselves against the virus. There are accounts from some inmates who say the prison guards don’t care about hygiene when they conduct searches of prison cells, and inmates are taken to meet with visitors without hygienic gloves or masks. The report also showed that despite warnings from officials for social distancing, prison guards and soldiers in prisons tend to congregate in groups.
The report called for the immediate release of ailing inmates and those who are in pre-trial detention.
The Turkish government says it is working on a measure for the release of inmates to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 in the country’s correctional facilities; however, it says those convicted of terrorism will not benefit from the new arrangement.
Thousands of non-loyalist citizens from all walks of life were arrested in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 on terrorism charges under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.