Riot erupts in Batman jail as coronavirus release excludes political prisoners

Inmates in southeastern Batman province of Turkey set fire to the prison on Saturday reportedly to protest a controversial draft law on the measures to be taken in jails over the COVID-19 outbreak.

The fire started hours after the Turkish parliament’s Justice Commission approved the release of up to 100,000 prisoners as a coronavirus precaution. However, tens of thousands of political prisoners were not included in the release.

Turkey’s President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and it’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ally prepared the 70-point draft law that excludes political prisoners from the planned bill.

The commission did not accept nearly 100 motions for amendment by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Good Party.

The general assembly of the parliament is to decide in the following days on the “narrowed” release bill.

Despite criticism from Western allies and the right groups, Turkey’s government has continued persecuting tens of thousands of dissents from various political views over “terrorism” charges.

The new draft excludes terrorism charges and crimes against the state along with some other charges leaving nearly 200,000 inmates in jails and expands the criteria for granting early release for about 100,000.

Several national and international human rights groups urged the government last week to apply COVID-19 measures for thousands of political prisoners, including politicians, academics, and journalists.

The discrimination between prisoners is unfair, and the scope of the legal amendments must surely be expanded, Ahvalnews quoted CHP deputy Utku Cakırozer as saying.

Hours after the commission’s decision, riots erupted in the Kurdish-majority city of Batman, HDP announced on Saturday.

An HDP MP Necdet Ipekyuz who visited the M-Type prison along with two other MPs and the families of prisoners has said the public prosecutor of Batman and Gendarme commander intervened in the riot.

“Inmates set fire to their cells to protest the amnesty bill [draft],” said Ipekyuz.

Releasing a written statement, the HDP called on the responsible authorities to inform the public immediately about the situation.

Batman chief public prosecutor office announced on Saturday evening that they restrained the order in prison, and there were no casualties.

The office claimed the incident was based on “individual matters” between “a few inmates.”

*Writing by Zubeyir Koculu, Editing by Giordano Stolley

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