Turkey Frees 38,000 Prisoners to Make Space for Coup Suspects

On Wednesday, Turkey began the process of freeing close to 38,000 prisoners who had been detained prior to the recent July 15 coup, making room for the nearly 35,000 detainees taken into custody for their alleged participation in the coup.

Following the failed coup, Turkey’s government announced the conditional release of 38,000 prisoners to alleviate its overly crowded prison population. The decree states the room created would make space for the recently arrested alleged coup suspects, which roughly rounds to around 35,000 people.

According to the BBC, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced that individuals who had “served half their sentence, rather than two-thirds, would be eligible. Crimes such as murder and sex abuse would be excluded.” Anyone arrested after July 1 would not be eligible for release. Bozdag estimated that nearly 93,000 people could possibly be released under this decree.

Previously, Turkey’s prison system has been heavily criticized by humans’ rights advocate groups for the deplorable conditions of its prisons. In data obtained from the Turkish Ministry of Justice, the number of people imprisoned in Turkey’s jails has risen from 51,000 to 187,000 in just the last 10 years.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insists that the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is located in the U.S., was behind the coup attempt. However, Gulen has steadily maintained his innocence and denies any involvement in the failed coup. Erdoğan began arresting those associated with Gulen, insisting judges, police, teachers, and more, all allegedly have proven ties to Gulen.

Erdoğan has been accused by rights groups of utilizing “creeping authoritarianism” by using the crackdown to arrest political opponents under the guise of followers of Gulen. Turkey’s government denies any wrongdoing stating that it thoroughly investigated all detained individuals.

In a speech on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that 79,900 people had been removed from civil services such as military, police, teachers, and judiciary positions. It was reported that 4,262 companies and institutions alleged to be connected to Gulen have been closed. About 40,030 people have been detained and 30,360 of them formally arrested.


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