Turkey bans lawyer visits to prisoners

The Turkish Ministry of Justice has banned lawyer visits to prisoners for two weeks because of the corona crisis. The prisons are extremely overcrowded and demands for the release of all prisoners are growing louder and louder.

The Turkish Ministry of Justice has sent a circular letter to all detention centres prohibiting lawyers from visiting their clients. Exceptions are emergency cases, in which the prison management can grant special permissions. The visit ban is initially valid for two weeks and may be extended, according to the ministry.

More than 300,000 people imprisoned in Turkey. There are 366 prisons with a total capacity of 233,000 inmates. In view of the Corona pandemic, human rights organizations and other civil society institutions in Turkey are demanding the immediate release of all prisoners. An online petition in Turkish, English and German for the release of political prisoners in Turkey in view of the Corona pandemic has already been signed by more than 56,000 people.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet also warns against a wildfire spread of the coronavirus in prisons and appeals to states around the world to look for ways to release inmates who are particularly threatened by Covid-19.

A judicial reform package is to be adopted in the Turkish parliament next week, which includes an amendment to the Penal Code. In times of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, which also has Turkey firmly in its grip, the official version says that the aim is to relieve the prisons and issue an amnesty. If the draft is accepted, up to 112,000 prisoners could be released. Not only petty criminals are expected benefit from the law, but also sexual crime offenders and people convicted of drug offences or organized crime. Only so-called "terror offenders", most of whom are political prisoners from the left and Kurdish spectrum, would not be considered.