Turkey’s new sentences enforcement law will release perpetrators of heinous crimes but exclude political prisoners, comments journalist Gökçer Tahincioğlu in a recent analysis for T24 that delves into the recently updated sentences enforcement regulation.
“In the past five years, Turkey has seen numerous amnesties,” begins Gökçer Tahincioğlu, drawing attention to the ongoing debate around a general amnesty as the centenary of the Republic nears. This could pave the way for individuals sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for heinous crimes to be released prematurely. Yet, political prisoners, such as Selahattin Demirtaş, Can Atalay and Osman Kavala, find themselves conspicuously excluded from these benefits.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when probed about the amnesties, responded, “In crimes against the state, the state can be forgiving, but in crimes against individuals, the state has no right to pardon.” This stance, rooted in both ethics and beliefs, aligns with Islamic law, where the state is not granted the authority to pardon severe crimes. In Turkey, a qualified majority in the Grand National Assembly is essential for an amnesty.
However, Tahincioğlu notes the diminishing public trust in the justice system. He mentions how voices of those convicted of crimes like murder and theft have grown louder, with many referring to themselves as “convicts of fate”, a term that resonates with compassion.
Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç’s new sentences enforcement regulation, effective from 31 July 2023, has raised concerns. For instance, according to the scenario Tahincioğlu paints, if a man relentlessly pursued his ex-partner, making her life unbearable, and she resisted by changing her name, seeking refuge, and trying to become invisible, but was still brutally assaulted by the pursuer, the state’s response is nevertheless lenient. The assailant’s sentence can be significantly reduced by various regulations.
This new regulation has peculiarities, Tahincioğlu states, differentiating even between criminals. Those convicted before 31 July 2023 can benefit, but those convicted after cannot. This has led to thousands waiving their right to appeal, hastening the finalisation of sentences.
The only individuals excluded from this regulation are those accused of crimes against the state, he underlines. Notable figures like Can Atalay, Osman Kavala, Çiğdem Mater, Selahattin Demirtaş and the detainees of the Kobani case are among those excluded.
Tahincioğlu’s analysis further reveals the following implications of the new regulation
Assuming someone had been handed down a sentence of 18 years, reduced to 12 through mitigation and the like, then:
-If they committed their crime before 2020, the enforcement duration of their sentence would be immediately halved, leaving six years.
-It is already the case that, if someone has a six-year sentence, they can spend three years under supervised release. Leaving just three years…
-The state appears to be prioritising the freeing up of space in prisons and providing a comfortable working environment for members of the judiciary.
-With the new enforcement regulation, if someone has a sentence longer than ten years, they only spend three months in a closed prison before being transferred to an open prison.
-If the sentence is less than ten years, the individual only spends one month in an open prison before release.
-To benefit from these provisions, the sentence must have been finalised before 31 July 2023.
-The system is so peculiar that it even discriminates between criminals based on the date of their conviction.
-The only individuals who cannot benefit from this enforcement regulation are those accused of committing crimes against the state.
Tahincioğlu specifically points out that the state appears to favour and protect those who have committed serious crimes, such as those committed with weapons or those involved in violent acts, by granting them privileges through the new sentences enforcement regulation. These privileges are not extended to others, notably political prisoners and those accused of crimes against the state. The “certain individuals” in this context refers to these dangerous criminals who seem to benefit disproportionately from the new regulations.