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 Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners to make space for newcomers

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Turkey will release some 38,000 prisoners under a penal reform announced on Wednesday as the arrests of tens of thousands of people suspected of links to last month’s attempted coup burden overstretched jails.

The reform, extending an existing probation scheme, was one of a series of measures outlined on Wednesday in two new decrees under a state of emergency declared after the July 15 failed putsch. The government gave no reason for the reform. Turkey’s Western allies worry President Erdogan is using the crackdown to target dissent.

Under the penal reform, convicts with up to two years left in sentences are eligible for release on probation, extending the period from one year. The “supervised release” excludes those convicted of terrorism, murder, violent or sexual crimes.

To be eligible for the scheme, prisoners must have served half of their sentences. Previously they were required to have already served two thirds of their sentence.

“This measure is not an amnesty,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said of the penal reform. “Around 38,000 people will be released from… jail in the first stage as a result of this measure.”

Turkey’s prison population has trebled over the last 15 years. There were 188,000 prisoners in Turkey as of March, some 8,000 more than the existing capacity. The 38,000 would represent just over 20 percent of the prison population.

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