Data compiled by Turkey’s Human Rights Centre’s Union of Bar Associations reveals that the number of prisoners in Turkey has multiplied fivefold since 2002, the year when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power.
The number of detainees in prisons reportedly increased from 59,429 in 2002 to 291,546 in 2019. Lawyer Şenal Sarıhan spoke to Yeni Özgür Politika about the increasing number of prisoners. “Arrests came to the fore due to the uprising (coup attempt) in 2016. However, we also saw a high number of prisoners in 2015. The rises in numbers in 2018 and 2019 shows that after the coup attempt in 2016, all the opposition groups faced repression. We are living a period of intense arrests. Any oppositional voice leads to accusations of terrorism”, Sarıhan said.
Sarıhan further drew attention to the structure of the so-called ‘Anti-Terror Law’ in Turkey. “We are faced with arbitrary arrests at all times and in all contexts. It shows that the state of emergency laws are still being used”, he said. The Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) Ankara Deputy Ali Haydar Hakverdi said: “Many people who do not support the government are continuously being sent to prison. When the pressure is increased to maintain power, the economy also deteriorates. Economic troubles also bring with them poverty, thus increasing the number of crimes and criminals”.
There are already 355 prisons in Turkey. According to the 2021 Performance Programme published by Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, 39 new prisons are to be built in the country during 2021.