Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is planning to build 20 new prisons this year, which is expected to significantly increase the country’s already high incarceration rate, local media reported on Tuesday, citing data from the Justice Ministry.
There are currently 399 penal institutions in Turkey with the capacity to hold 289,974 people. The AKP government, which built 22 prisons last year, intends to increase the number of penal institutions in the country to 419 in 2023. The government also aims to build four new prisons in 2024 and four more in 2025.
When the AKP came to power in 2002, there were only 59,429 inmates in prison, including 34,808 convicts. The government has built 269 new prisons since 2006, increasing the capacity to hold 216,607 more people, according to Turkish media reports.
Mass detentions and arrests have been taking place in Turkey since a coup attempt in July 2016. The AKP government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.
Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who embarked on a massive crackdown on the opposition after the coup attempt, of using the incident as a pretext to quash dissent.
Human Rights Watch says in a 2023 report that tens of thousands of people alleged to have links to the Gülen movement, the largest group targeted by Erdoğan, continue to face unfair trials on terrorism charges on the basis of their perceived association with the group, with many having faced prolonged and arbitrary imprisonment and no redress after mass removal from civil service jobs and the judiciary.
A total of 332,884 people have been detained and 101,000 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in July, adding that there are 19,252 people behind bars who are under arrest or convicted of links to the movement.
More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs after the attempted coup for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.