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Turkey considers freeing some detainees as virus menaces prison populations

Like other countries fearing an outbreak of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons, Turkey is debating wether to free some of its 300,000 prisoners — but no political detainees, rights groups observe.
Silivri Prison complex is pictured in Silivri near Istanbul, Turkey, June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir - RC1D23495C00

Following the lead of countries like Iran and Bahrain, which have freed thousands of prisoners to reduce the risk of COVID-19 deaths in overburdened penitentiaries, Turkey is mulling legislation that would free some of its 300,000 detainees, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul has confirmed.

The bill has provoked fierce debate as the death toll from COVID-19 rose to 30 and the number of confirmed cases hit 1,236 in the country of 83 million. Gul said no cases had been recorded among prisoners so far. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appealed via Twitter for citizens to remain at home and a partial curfew was slapped on people above the age of 65 as Turkey began shifting its response into higher gear, with mosques, schools, sports venues and the fabled Grand Bazaar in Istanbul all shut down. The government issued a new circular allowing public sector employees to work remotely.

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