Rights groups have warned that the coronavirus may be spreading in Turkish jails and have called for more transparency, Cumhuriyet said on Thursday.
Gülseren Yoleri, head of the Human Rights Association (İHD)’s Istanbul branch, said that five prisoners in the high-security Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul had complained of having coronavirus symptoms, such as difficulties breathing, harsh coughs, a high fever, and loss of appetite.
Yoleri said the İHD was unable to confirm the information, which had been providing to them by families of the prisoners by phone. She also said that the İHD had received unconfirmed reports that some prison doctors had been quarantined because of the virus.
“Precautions should be taken urgently in prisons. Most importantly, perhaps, the first step is that those in the high risk group should be released as soon as possible,” said Yoleri.
Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, said that they had also received unconfirmed reports about prisoners in Maltepe prison displaying coronavirus symptoms.
Fincancı called on the authorities to release more information regarding the spread of coronavirus in prisons.
“Relatives of prisoners are very anxious at this time, they have difficulty accessing information, and they are sometimes exposed to violence when they try to get information,” said Fincancı.
The Chief Public Prosecutor of Turkey’s northern province of Samsun said an inmate died after contracting the coronavirus, marking Turkey’s first COVID-19 related death in prison, Cumhuriyet reported on Wednesday.
“The convict named Mehmet Yeter died for reasons related to COVID-19. Because the person has passed away due to an infectious disease, it is requested that necessary precautions are implemented, requested,” the prosecutor said in a note to the provincial cemetery department.
Mustafa Yeneroğlu, opposition party DEVA’s founding member and lawmaker, said on Twitter on Wednesday: “The state is responsible for safeguarding the health and right to life of people in prison. Urgent measures must be taken, and those who cannot be protected must be evacuated!”
Turkey’s parliament has been debating a bill to allow approximately 90,000 inmates out of 300,000 currently held in Turkish prisons to be released early or to serve out their sentences under house arrest.
Some opposition parties say many of the inmates jailed on terrorism charges, who have been excluded from the bill, are political prisoners who were sentenced due to Turkey’s broad definition of terrorism.