EP officials urge Turkey to release political prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic

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MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor (L) and MEP Sergey Lagodinsky.

The European Parliament’s standing rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor, and the chair of the EP Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky, on Monday called on the Turkish government to extend a proposed coronavirus amnesty bill to include hundreds of journalists, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, politicians, academics, rights defenders and artists who are deemed to be political prisoners.

“We welcome the Turkish government’s plan to substitute prison time with alternatives such as early parole or house arrest, which could apply to up to 100.000 inmates,” Amor and Lagodinsky said in a written statement.

“However, it is crucial to apply this in a non-discriminatory and objective way, based on health criteria and on the risks that released prisoners may pose to society,” they said.

Turkey has jailed thousands of people for violating anti-terrorism laws, which include remarks or acts critical of the government, especially after a failed coup in July 2016.

Following the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey, the government drafted a bill to release almost one-third of the prison population.

“In Turkey, there are currently hundreds of journalists, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, politicians, academics, human rights defenders, artists and others who are in pre-trial detention or serving sentences without evidence that they committed any violent act or crime” the statement added.

“To exempt them from the early release measures would represent an aggravated punishment and unjustified unfair treatment, as they do not represent any risk to public security.

“We urge the Turkish authorities to follow the call made by the UN High Commissioner and release every person detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting political views.”

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