Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used his presidential power to pardon four persons convicted on various charges, including an executive of the radical Hizbullah who had been sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, the Evrensel daily reported.
Hizbullah is an extremist Sunni group that emerged in southeastern Turkey in 1985 and was responsible for the murder of Muslim feminist author Konca Kuriş in 1999 and the assassination of Diyarbakır police chief Gaffar Okkan in 2001, among others.
According to the decision published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, Mehmet Emin Alpsoy, known to be responsible for Hizbullah’s “military wing,” and retired general Çetin Saner, who had been given a life sentence on coup charges for his role in a military intervention in 1997, were pardoned due to their deteriorating health.
Alpsoy was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for his involvement in previously unsolved murders, including the killing of three people who were kidnapped and tortured in Ankara’s Etimesgut district.
The decision also showed that the sentences of Nihat İliman and Sedat Çelik, who were convicted of premeditated murder and drug trafficking, respectively, were vacated due to disabilities.
Erdoğan’s move to pardon Alpsoy came after an election alliance that includes his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) last month accepted the radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), the political arm of Hizbullah, into the bloc.
Founded in 2012, HÜDA-PAR calls for the constitutional recognition of the Kurds and the Kurdish language and the decentralization of state power and the strengthening of local administration. The party, which is opposed to LGBT rights, also wants adultery criminalized and religious marriages recognized.
HÜDA-PAR endorsed the president in an April 16, 2017 referendum that gave Erdoğan broad powers. All convicted and charged Hizbullah members have been released from prison in recent years thanks to Erdoğan’s reshuffling of the judiciary through which Islamists were put in key positions.
According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Association (İHD), the number of sick prisoners is in the thousands, 651 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.