Erdogan's purges lead to overcrowded prisons: more than 22,000 detainees sleep on the ground

For the first time the total number of prison population exceeds 224 thousand. To date, Turkish jails can accommodate up to 200,000 detainees. The government frees common detainees to close the alleged "coup". The funds allocated to prisons exceed the budget of many ministries. By the end of 2017,  76 new prisons ready.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Due to the overcrowding of prisons, at least 22,000 detainees in prisons in Turkey, many arrested in the aftermath of the failed July 2015 coup, are forced to sleep on the ground (around 9% of the total). According to the information website, the latest data shows that, for the first time in the history of the country, the total prison population has exceeded 224 thousand.

In recent days, the Turkish Justice Ministry has reported that out of 381 prisons spread across the country, 139 were built over the past 10 years. Of these, at least 38 in the last year to accommodate the victims of Erdogan's purges. Ankara intends to expand the prison capacity by at least 11,000 units by the end of 2017, finalizing the construction of 76 new prisons. Another 113 are in the early stages, and 18 are currently planned on paper.

According to the report, at present the country's prisons can accommodate up to 202,000 people; However, following the man hunt against opponents and the (supposed) coup henchmen launched by the Turkish authorities, there are over 224,000 people in jail today. Of these, 22 thousand sleep on the floor every night.

A survey published by Cumhuriyet daily notes the funds allocated to prisons are far greater than the budget available to various ministries. The annual cost for the maintenance of hundreds of thousands of detainees rose dramatically, reaching 6.6 billion Turkish lira (just under $ 1.9 billion).

Hence the choice of the government to grant conditional release to 3,000 people charged with minor crimes (not involving terrorism, sexual offenses, or involvement in the coup); Another 10,000 will be transferred to open prisons. In August this year, the Turkish authorities released 38,000 detainees to allow new citizens arrested for involvement in the coup.

One year after Turkey’s failed coup on 14-15 July 2016, when the power President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wavered, the campaign of repression against real or imaginary plotters and supporters continues. According to Turkey’s Justice Ministry, some 50,510 people have been arrested on coup charges, more than 120,000 have been detained, and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings since the failed coup a year ago. Among the arrestees are 169 generals, 7,089 colonels and 24 governors. A total of 2,431 members of the Turkish judiciary are among those arrested, whilst 265 of them are at large. A total of 4,521 judges and prosecutors were dismissed from their jobs. No segment of Turkish society has been spared by the repression that followed the coup: journalists, intellectuals, professors, soldiers, government officials, judges, doctors, athletes, business people, and ordinary citizens.

The usually spurious accusations behind the arrests or investigations include membership in Kurdish "terrorist" groups or affiliation with the movement led by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, currently in exile in Pennsylvania (United States). According to Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the latter masterminded the coup in which 270 people were killed and thousands wounded. Once an Erdoğan ally, the Islamic leader has always denied any responsibility and has called for an international probe to shed light on the coup and the forces that inspired it. Meanwhile, in recent months, the president – who has called the coup attempt “a gift from God” – won a referendum making Turkey a presidential republic with a slim majority and under the cloud of electoral fraud. Today he sees himself as the nation’s strongman.