As thousands of people imprisoned under the country’s sweeping anti-terror laws have been languishing in jail for years awaiting trial, a new decree issued on Friday extended the pre-trial detention period from five to seven years.
With the release of the new decrees, which were published in the Official Gazette and numbered 693 and 694, the Turkish government has literally turned pre-trial detention into a punishment without trial against hundreds of people including journalists, political activists, students.
According to the decrees, the period of pre-trial detention for those arrested on accusation of “aiding and supporting a terrorist organizations, espionage and involvement in a coup attempt,” can now be extended up to 7 years.
Previously, this period was limited to 5 years max.
The amendment largely targets Turkey’s Kurdish minority, and the people affiliated with the Gülen group, which the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016,
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government along with President Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the group, repeatedly denied having any role in the failed coup, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Since the investigations into the coup attempt started more than a year ago, there have only been a handful of convictions, while the vast majority of prisoners are still awaiting trial. Such large number of people in Turkish prisons raised concerns that whether the Turkish government systematically punishes its opponents by long periods of pre-trial detention.