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Political prisoners in Turkey threatened with deliberate infection with coronavirus unless they obey

POLITICAL prisoners held in a Turkish jail have been threatened that they would be infected with coronavirus unless they kept compliant, according to a prisoner welfare group.

The Arrested & Convicted Families Law Solidarity Associations Federation (Med Tuhad-Fed) reported that the chilling warning was made to detainees held in the Aksaray T-Type prison in central Anatolia last week.

In its weekly report, Med Tuhad-Fed said the prison administration warned those held: “You have to obey the rules, otherwise we will bring in someone who has the coronavirus.” 

The group warned that prisons were “not suitable for healthy life,” urging authorities to release elderly prisoners and children who are at risk of coronavirus.

Its report exposed appalling conditions in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons, where officials have failed to provide protective equipment to staff and detainees.  

Beatings and torture are widespread, and detainees are unable to practise social distancing precautions due to cramped conditions.

A lack of cleaning and a refusal to refer prisoners displaying symptoms to medical units is risking a serious outbreak of Covid-19 among Turkey’s bulging prison population, Med Tuhad-Fed warned.

Prisoner numbers swelled after a failed coup attempt in 2016. Jails were built especially to hold almost 50,000 political prisoners including journalists, opposition politicians and academics on trumped-up charges.

Last week the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) tabled proposed draft legislation that would see about 100,000 of Turkey’s 300,000 prisoners freed, many on extended probation with sentences drastically cut.

But more than 200 women’s organisations and 76 legal professional associations warned that those set to be released included paedophiles, rapists and those who have committed gender-based violence, including murder.

They called for the scrapping of the Third Judicial Package and the immediate release of all those held as “political hostages” including Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas.

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