Turkey sees record rise in number of new prisons, inmates during AKP rule

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There has been a record rise in the number of prisons constructed as well as the number of people who were put behind bars during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to an opposition deputy.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Abdüllatif Şener revealed the number of prisons in Turkey and the prison population at a recent session in the Turkish Parliament.

Accusing the ruling AKP of building as many prisons since it first came to power in 2002 as were built from the founding of the Turkish Republic until then, Şener said: “There is not a single year in which you failed to build a prison, and you have constructed 141 prisons since 2014 alone.”

Responding to Şener’s remarks, AKP deputy Hasan Çilez said, “We have the budget, that’s why we’re building them.”

Şener said 14 prisons were constructed in 2014, 18 in 2015, 38 in 2016, 12 in 2017, 15 in 2018, 26 in 2019 and 18 in 2020, adding that 39 more prisons will be inaugurated next year. With the new prisons, the number of prisons constructed over the past eight years will have risen to 180.

There are currently 355 prisons in Turkey.

The CHP deputy also disclosed the number of inmates in Turkey’s prisons since the AKP came to power in 2002.

According to the figures provided by Şener, there were 58,000 inmates in Turkey’s prisons in 2002, while this figure rose to 291,500 in 2019.

Mass detentions and arrests have been taking place in Turkey since a coup attempt in July 2016. The AKP government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.

“Turkey is the eighth country in the world in terms of the size of its prison population. The first country is the US with a population four times bigger than that of Turkey. The second is China with a population 17 times bigger,” said Şener.

Critics accuse Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who embarked on the massive crackdown on the opposition after the coup attempt, of using the incident as a pretext to quash dissent.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

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