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Making Room for Coup Plotters: Turkey May Release up to 93K Convicts

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a decree to initially release an estimated 38,000 in an apparent effort to make space for thousands of accused plotters detained in connection with last month’s failed military coup attempt.

Reuters reports:

In an interview with A Haber television, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 38,000 people would initially be released, but as many as 93,000 could benefit from the program.

Only inmates who committed crimes before July 1 would be eligible for conditional release, excluding anyone convicted of involvement in the failed July 15 coup.

As part of countrywide purge of the army, police, and the courts that also expanded to universities and schools, the Erdogan government either suspended or detained nearly 50,000 people in the wake of the insurrection.

Particularly, various news agencies report, nearly 35,000 people have been arrested in the purge.

Agence-France Presse (AFP) notes that “almost 11,600 of them have since been released.”

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

Turkey issued a decree Wednesday paving the way for the conditional release of some 38,000 prisoners, the justice minister said…

The government decree, issued under Turkey’s three-month long state of emergency that was declared following the coup, allows the release of inmates who have two years or less to serve of their prison terms and makes convicts who have served half of their prison term eligible for parole. Some prisoners are excluded from the measures: people convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse or terrorism and other crimes against the state.

Reuters adds:

The government gave no reason for measure, but its prisons were already straining capacity before the mass arrests that followed the coup…

Wednesday’s decrees, published in the Official Gazette, also ordered the dismissal of 2,360 more police officers, more than 100 military personnel and 196 staff at Turkey’s information and communication technology authority, BTK.

Many of the people who have been either suspended from their government jobs or detained have been linked to the U.S.-based imam Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of the Turkish president turned enemy.

Erdogan has accused 75-year-old Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, of being behind the attempt by rogue Turkish troops to overthrow his government. Although Gulen has denied the accusation, Turkey has demanded that the U.S. extradite him.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) recently accused the cleric of inciting his followers who fled Turkey after the attempted coup to “perform activities against Turkey.”

The measure to release the prisoners was announced Wednesday by Minister Bozdag, who said the move was “not an amnesty” and added that the convicts were being released on conditional parole rather than being pardoned, reports AFP.

“This measure is not an amnesty,” the minister reportedly said on Twitter. “The punishment will be served outside through supervised released.”

“I hope that the arrangement is beneficial to the prisoners, their loved ones, our people and our country,” he also wrote.

Citing justice ministry data obtained by Anadolu Agency, Reuters points out that “there were 213,499 prisoners in jail as of Aug. 16, more than 26,000 above prison capacity.”

The news agency adds:

Western allies worry President Tayyip Erdogan, already accused by opponents of creeping authoritarianism, is using the crackdown to target dissent, testing relations with a key NATO partner in the war on Islamic State.

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