EP officials call Turkey’s coronavirus release bill ‘a great disappointment’

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MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor (L) and MEP Sergey Lagodinsky.

European Parliament officials have said a coronavirus release bill approved by the Turkish parliament that excludes political prisoners is “a great disappointment.”

European Parliament standing rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor and Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Sergey Lagodinsky issued a statement on Wednesday.

“The legal amendments by the Turkish Parliament allowing the release of 90.000 prisoners, but excluding those imprisoned for their political activities and citizens in pre-trial detention, is a great disappointment,” it said.

“We had hoped that the Turkish Parliament would adopt a fair, responsible and non-discriminatory law that would save lives from being lost in overcrowded Turkish prisons,” it added.

“Such a law is needed, especially for those unjustly detained and imprisoned for political reasons. Instead, the Turkish ruling parties have decided to deliberately expose the lives of journalists, human rights defenders and those whom they deem to be political opponents to the risk of the deadly disease COVID 19.”

Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday passed a law that will allow the release of tens of thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding in jails and protect detainees from the coronavirus but which critics slam for excluding those jailed on terrorism charges.

Turkey has arrested thousands of academics, lawyers, journalists, civil servants and members of the military it says were supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who it blames for a coup attempt. Gülen denies any involvement.

Many Kurdish activists and politicians the state claims have links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are also in jail.

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