Turkey’s Prisons, Black Markets for Selling Medical Masks

Turkey has announced the first death caused by the novel Corona virus (Covid-19) in prisons.

The Turkish Minister of Justice Abdul Hamid Gul said that three prisoners have died as a result of infection with the virus, while 17 cases were reported in five prisons of different provinces. The minister added that 13 of these cases were hospitalized but in good condition, whereas one case was transferred to the intensive care unit because of suffering from chronic diseases.

Debating those coronavirus cases comes as the parliament is discussing a draft law releasing 90,000 prisoners from overcrowded prisons, where around 300,000 persons are detained as part of a general amnesty, allowing conditional release or commutation of sentences, provided spending the rest of the sentence at home.

The draft is criticized by the Turkish opposition and international human rights organizations because of excluding political prisoners and those of conscious, who have been charged under the controversial Turkish anti-terror laws, putting them in the same category of murderers and other criminals.

Last week, Turkey recorded 98 death cases and 4093 new infections with COVID-19, raising the number to 1296 deaths, and 61049 registered coronavirus cases

High prices of masks in Turkey’s prisons

Ironically, while all countries in the world are announcing large aid packages and releasing prisoners as part of measure taken to limit the spread of Coronavirus, the things are different in Turkish prisons.

Since wearing medical masks is one of the common ways to prevent an infection with COVID-19, authorities should provide them for prisoners free of charge. However, Turkish authorities increased the masks’ prices in prisons due to the increasing demand for them.

The Kurdish journalist Nadim Torvent, detained in the strictly guarded Van prison, revealed that the price of one mask in the prison canteen was increased to 17 liras (about $ 2.70), denying the authorities’ claims about taking all necessary measures to protect detainees from the Coronavirus.

Although the prices of everything in Turkish prison canteens are much higher than in regular markets, the prison administration in Van province on the Iranian border is selling all products in its canteen with “black market” standards, including medical masks.

In a phone call with his family on March 15, the journalist confirmed the claims of the Ministry of Interior regarding not taking any precaution measure in Turkey’s prisons, pointing out that danger awaits detainees, if authorities failed to do what is necessary in the right time.

Nadim, who is sentenced by a court to 8 years in prison on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, referred to the critical conditions of the sick detainees in prison. “We listened with astonishment to the statements of the Ministry of Justice that allegedly took all measures and precautions in prisons. While in fact, we haven’t got even antiseptics or gloves, despite our request from the prison administration.

The Kurdish journalist, detained since 2016, said that prison officials left some disinfectants in front of some wards, but they refused to provide them with alcohol as it’s prohibited, stressing that they have not taken special measures and precautions for sick prisoners classified in the high-risk group.

He also revealed the bad prison conditions by saying: “The most important of all is that no special measures and precautions have been taken for prisoners with chronic diseases; tens of thousands of prisoners are still lying on the ground. We do not understand what measures officials are talking about.

They should release sick prisoners as soon as possible above all”.

It is noteworthy that the Tigris News Agency correspondent Nadim Torvent was tortured at the intelligence center before being imprisoned on May 13, 2016, then the criminal court sentenced him to eight years and nine months imprisonment, the sentence was approved by the Supreme Court in October 2019.

Shocking statistics

The Stockholm Center of Freedom revealed shocking statistics about the number of detainees held in Turkish prisons, highlighting their suffering behind the bars.

The center, quoting statistics issued by the Turkish Ministry of Justice, said that 260,144 people are imprisoned in various provinces of the country, noting that the 385 Turkish prisons are overcrowded.

Official statistics indicate that there is an overload estimated at tens of thousands of inmates, which shrinks the space allocated to each prisoner, violating the rights of prisoners guaranteed by law.

In Turkey’s prisons, torture doesn’t exclude pregnant women

Human rights activists have accused Turkish authorities of torturing a 5-month pregnant prisoner under claims of having links to the Fatah Allah Gülen movement.

Irene Keskin, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, had visited a prison with other lawyers, where they spoke with prisoners and learn about their living conditions in their prison, according to the Stockholm Freedom Center.

“We met an imprisoned woman on trial for belonging to the Fatah Allah Gülen movement, a US-based Turkish preacher, accused of masterminding the coup attempt in the summer of 2016,” Keskin tweeted.

“The woman was strip-searched during pregnancy and tortured by suspended sitting – one of the physical and psychological pressure methods used in Turkish prisons against the detainees,” she added. “We never tolerate torture,” wrote Keskin.

Since the failed coup in July 2016, there have been reports of torture practices and ill-treatment of prisoners in Turkey’s prisons.

Deaths under the name of suicide

In January 2019, a report by Human Rights Watch said allegations of torture, cruel, and inhuman treatment in detention centers and prisons of Turkey have increased significantly, due to the absence of any meaningful investigation.

The inhumane practices of Turkish authorities against inmates are not limited to adults, as the Turkish Human Rights Association announced in its report in 2018. Turkish prisons include 743 children detained with their mothers. Meanwhile, a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that detaining women shortly before or after giving birth is a matter of concern.

Tens of thousands were imprisoned in Turkey following the failed coup d’état, including at least 10,000 women. The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, considering it as a terrorist organization, although the movement denies its involvement or any other terrorist activity.

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