33 bar associations call on government to release prisoners

There are over than 270,000 prisoners in 375 prisons in Turkish prison, according to figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). Concern is growing because overcrowding may help the spread of coronavirus as it is of other diseases.

The coronavirus emergency has prompted thirty-three bar associations to call on the government of Turkey to release prisoners.

The statement said that sentences should be suspended or served at home given the situation of extreme emergency.

The statement recalled that tousands of prisoners have been released to prevent the spread of the virus in Iran and similar measures are being taken by other countries.

The Ministry of Justice on March 13 suspended prison visits as well as meetings with lawyers until the end of April.

The statement underlined that the the right to meet with their relatives and lawyers is for prisoners the only way to communicate with the outside world and added that “this is not a measure that suits the purpose.”

The statement also pointed out that prisons in Turkey are overcrowded and this limits access “to cleaning supplies and disinfectants. There were thousands of ill prisoners, old prisoners, women and child prisoners. Urgent and comprehensive measures should be taken and solutions should be developed in order to effectively combat this epidemic and minimize potential life-threatening risks.”

The statement also recalled that “the virus can be transmitted to the prison not only by prisoners’ relatives, but also by prison guards and security personnel,” implying that a different approach should be taken to effectively deal with the emergency.

The bar associations that signed the statement are as follows: Adana, Adıyaman, Ağrı, Amasya, Ankara, Artvin, Batman, Bolu, Bursa, Bitlis, Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Düzce, Hakkari, Hatay, Gaziantep, Gümüşhane-Bayburt, İstanbul, İzmir, Kocaeli, Manisa, Mardin, Mersin, Muş, Ordu, Osmaniye, Siirt, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Tunceli, Tekirdağ, Van, Yalova.