Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners who committed crimes before coup amid reports of prison overcrowding

Turkey begins releasing 38,000 inmates after announcing a penal reform, in order to make space for the tens of thousands of people who have been rounded up following an attempted coup in July
The watchtowers of the Sincan prison, outside Ankara, Turkey on Nov 2, 2012.
The watchtowers of the Sincan prison, outside Ankara, Turkey on Nov 2, 2012.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey will grant early release to some 38,000 prisoners who committed crimes before July 1, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Wednesday (Aug 17), amid reports of prison overcrowding after the failed coup.

Mr Bozdag said in a series of messages on Twitter that the move was "not an amnesty" and the convicts were not being pardoned but released on parole.

It will not apply to convicts guilty of murder, terrorism or state security crimes, or the thousands jailed after the putsch which took place on July 15. "The regulation refers to crimes committed before July 2016. The crimes committed after July 1 2016 are outside its scope," Mr Bozdag said. "As a result of this regulation, approximately 38,000 people will be released from closed and open prisons at the first stage."

The timing means that it is impossible that anyone detained for complicity in the coup can be released as part of the mass parole move.

There have been reports in Turkish media that jails in the country were suffering severe overcrowding due to the influx of tens of thousands of prisoners in the wake of the failed July 15 coup.

According to Turkish officials, over 35,000 people have been detained since the coup attempt although almost 11,600 of them have since been released.

It is likely that releasing convicts not linked to the coup will make room for the alleged coup plotters who still face trials and heavy jail sentences.

Mr Bozdag, however, did not outline his reasoning for the move.