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Turkish opposition plans to take controversial early release bill to Constitutional Court

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said it is preparing to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court about a controversial early release bill aimed at reducing the country’s prison population amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.

The move was announced by CHP deputy group chairman Engin Özkoç in a press briefing on Tuesday.

“This bill is contrary to the very concept of justice,” Özkoç said. “If crimes committed against the ruling party are pardoned but those against the public are not, the scale of justice will no longer be balanced.”

He added that his party objected to the bill because they found it unfair that people will be kept behind bars for speaking out for peace, reporting news or opposing the government.

However, Özkoç did not provide details of the complaint such as the grounds on which the CHP will object or what they will request from the court.

On Tuesday the Turkish parliament passed an early release bill that was jointly drafted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Critics have slammed the legislation for excluding a large number of prisoners including politicians, journalists, writers and academics, most of whom were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in politically motivated trials.

The bill was also criticized for failing to address concerns related to pre-trial detentions, a practice widely implemented by courts in politically motivated trials.

Turkey has confirmed more than 60,000 cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, and rights groups have been raising concerns about the right to life of prisoners in the country’s notoriously overcrowded and unhygienic prison facilities.

Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül on Monday announced that three Turkish prisoners had died of the disease and that a total of 17 convicts have contracted the virus.

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