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COVID-19: Turkey Amends Criminal Procedure and Sentence Execution Provisions

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Recent Development

The Law Amending the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures and Certain Laws No. 7242 (“Law“), which was published on the Official Gazette on April 15, 2020, amends a total of 11 laws, including the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, the Turkish Criminal Law No. 5237 and the Criminal Procedure Law No. 5271.

What’s New?

1. Scope of penalties to be fulfilled in open penal institutions extended

As per the Law, criminals sentenced to imprisonment for three years or less due to intentional crimes will directly fulfill their penalties in open penal institutions. The Law excludes the following from this provision’s scope: criminals sentenced due to terror crimes, organized crimes and crimes against sexual inviolability; criminals sentenced due to the same type of crime for the second time; and criminals whose penalties continue to be fulfilled in penal institutions due to the withdrawal of their conditional release order.

Criminals sentenced to imprisonment for five years or less due to negligent crimes, criminals whose punitive fine penalties were converted to imprisonment, and criminals who were imposed a pressure imprisonment in accordance with the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law will also directly fulfill their penalties in open penal institutions.

If the administrative board determines that a prisoner is ready to re-integrate into society, execution judge will make an evaluation and decide whether to transfer the prisoner from the closed penal institution to an open penal institution.

2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain convicts are granted leaves of absence until May 31, 2020

As per the Law, which was issued in scope of the various governmental measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Turkey, the following prisoners are granted leaves of absence until May 31, 2020: prisoners in open penal institutions; prisoners in closed penal institutions entitled to be transferred to open penal institutions; and prisoners under probation. If the pandemic continues, upon the Ministry of Health’s proposal, the Ministry of Justice may extent this period three times on the condition that each extension does not exceed two months.

3. Temporary probation measures adopted

As per temporary article 6(1) adopted in scope of the Law, in terms of the crimes committed before March 30, 2020, prisoners that have demonstrated good behavior, who are in open penal institutions or juvenile detention centers, and who have three or less years remaining until their conditional release, are entitled to go on probation. As understood from the wording of the Law, not only the current prisoners, but also the criminals sentenced to imprisonment after March 30, 2020 due to their crimes committed before this date are entitled to go on probation in accordance with this provision. The following crimes are excluded from this temporary provision’s scope: first-degree murder; intentional injury; aggravated intentional injury; torture; crimes against sexual inviolability; violation of privacy; narcotic crimes; and terror crimes.

In addition, as per temporary article 9(6), upon their requests, prisoners that have demonstrated good behavior and who are scheduled be transferred to open penal institutions in a year or less, can be transferred to open penal institutions now on the following conditions: if they were sentenced to imprisonment for less than ten years and they spent one month in a closed penal institution; or if they were sentenced to imprisonment for ten years or more and they spent three months in a closed penal institution. The following crimes are excluded from this temporary provision’s scope: crimes against national security and constitutional order; crimes of divulging state secrets; terror crimes; and organized crimes.

4. Periods required to be spent in penal institutions to benefit from conditional release re-determined

As per the Law, in order to benefit from the conditional release provisions, prisoners must have demonstrated good behavior during their time in penal institutions. Prisoners must have served 1/2 of their sentence for conditional release, which the Law decreased from 2/3 of the sentenced time; and prisoners who committed repeated crimes or organized crimes must have served 2/3 of their sentence, which the Law decreased from 3/4 of the sentenced time.

However, prisoners sentenced to imprisonment due to the following crimes were excluded from the scope of this reduction: first-degree murder; intentional injury; aggravated intentional injury; torture; crimes against sexual inviolability; terror crimes; violation of privacy; crimes of divulging state secrets; and espionage.

Conclusion

The Law amended the execution of sentences and probation practices by reducing execution periods and the required time served for conditional release. In addition, due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 in Turkey, prisoners in open penal institutions or under probation are granted leaves of absence until May 31, 2020.

Please stay up to date with further developments through the Esin Attorney Partnership Coronavirus Helpdesk.