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Turkey to release tens of thousands of prisoners over virus fears except for journalists and politicians

Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday passed a law that will allow the release of tens of thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding in jails and protect detainees from the coronavirus, but which critics slam for excluding those jailed on terrorism charges.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party and nationalist MHP allies supported the bill, which was accepted with 279 votes for and 51 votes against, deputy parliament speaker Sureyya Sadi Bilgic said.

The law will open the way for the temporary release of around 45,000 prisoners to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Those eligible will be released under judicial control until the end of May and the Justice Ministry will be able to extend the period three times by a maximum of two months each time, according to the law.

A similar number would be released permanently under a separate part of the legislation aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Monday there were 17 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among prisoners, including three deaths, and 79 prison personnel had also tested positive.

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