Turkish government frees criminals, not political prisoners

This 2013 music video from Turkey says about itself:

Turkish revolutionary socialist music band Grup Yorum performs Bella Ciao live in Istanbul. Various musicians and artists join them on stage and sing along with thousands of comrades.

By Steve Sweeney:

Friday, April 3, 2020

Turkish state accused of murder after death of hunger-striking Grup Yorum musician

TURKEY’S ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was accused of murder today following the death of revolutionary leftist musician Helin Bölek after 288 days on hunger strike.

Ms Bölek, a member of the outlawed band Grup Yorum, had refused medical intervention after turning her hunger strike into a “death fast” earlier this year, along with fellow band member Ibrahim Gokcek.

“All Helin wanted to do was to sing her songs freely. AKP fascism is responsible for her death,” Grup Yorum said in a statement.

Helin Bölek's funeral

This photo shows Helin Bölek’s funeral.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Turkey wants to release prisoners, but not political prisoners

“I am so afraid that my father will get the coronavirus,” sobs a boy of about eight years old. “I want my father back.” In a video message, children of political prisoners in Turkey express concern about the fate of their parents. A girl speaks boldly, “Don’t take away my dad’s right to health. Listen to us, please.”

In Turkey, it will be decided this week whether more than 90,000 prisoners can be released. A law that makes this possible has been discussed for some time, because Turkish prisons have been overcrowded for years. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, efforts are being made to introduce the law as soon as possible. …

The law that is ready does not apply to all prisoners. … There is another group that will have to stay behind bars: thousands of political prisoners. They are journalists, writers, academics, activists and opposition politicians.

Turkish prisons have over 20 percent more prisoners than there is official space for. Cells with space for eight prisoners are populated by twenty people in some prisons. There are stories about prisoners who have to take turns sleeping because of the lack of space.

The number of corona infections in Turkey is increasing rapidly. The counter is at about 24,000. 501 people died. 80 million people live in Turkey.

According to human rights organization Human Rights Watch, all prisoners are at risk of being infected with the coronavirus and it is impossible to protect them against this in tight cells. “There is a lack of hygiene, there are too few face masks for staff. It is simply not possible to apply social distancing in such circumstances,” said Emma Sinclair, HRW rapporteur in Turkey. “Only one warder needs to be infected. The virus can spread very quickly in prison.”

It is impossible for political prisoners to be excluded from release. “These people have been convicted under terrorism laws but have not in fact committed any criminal or terrorist offenses. They have been penalized for their opinion.”

Heart problems

There is concern about aged prisoners and prisoners with underlying medical problems. For example, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas is struggling with heart problems. Philanthropist and peace activist Osman Kavala also falls into the risk group because he is over sixty.

Kavala was acquitted in February of involvement in the Gezi protests. On the same day, he was arrested again on suspicion of involvement in the failed 2016 coup. Writer and journalist Ahmet Altan is 70 years old, and he has also been detained on charges of involvement in the failed coup. Journalist Mumtazer Turkone, who is detained for alleged ties to the Gülen movement, is also said to be under treatment for heart problems.

“If they become infected with the coronavirus, it could mean their death sentence,” said Erol Önderolu, reporter for Reporters Without Borders. “I am not surprised, but it is alarming. These are people who do not belong in prison in the first place, you cannot be excluded from such an arrangement.” …

The largest opposition party CHP accuses Erdogan‘s government of playing with human lives. “The lives of these prisoners were threatened without the pandemic,” said Burkay Düzce of the Istanbul party. “If the government does not apply that law to everyone, they are not only guilty of violating the right to freedom of expression, but also the right to live.”

Turkey: Progressive lawyers turn their hunger strike into a ‘death fast’ in demand for a fair trial: here.

Opposition party demands Turkish government protects women as violence rises after lockdown: here.

Women’s shelters in Turkey’s Kurdish regions forced to close after spike in demand following lockdown: here.

I used to be a guitarist, now I am a ‘terrorist’. Turkish folk musician IBRAHIM GOKCEK explains why he is on a death fast in the face of persecution by Erdogan’s authoritarian government: here.

6 thoughts on “Turkish government frees criminals, not political prisoners

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