ISTANBUL – There is commotion in Turkey about the release of prisoners who were on remand for involvement in terrorist attacks by the Turkish group Hizbullah. They were set free on Tuesday after a new law came into effect that reduces the maximun period of remand.
The eighteen Hizbullah fighters had been in jail without a conviction since 2000. A few PKK fighters were also released, along with some ‘ordinary’ criminals. Not everybody agrees with the release of men who could have got a life sentence, according to reports in several Turkish papers on Wednesday.
The new law is meant to bring judicial practice more in line with EU rules. But because the judicial process in Turkey is very slow, the new law means that serious criminals are released much earlier than if they had been convicted. And that angers people, especially after Turkish TV showed released Hizbullah members celebrating. By the way, the Turkish terrorist group Hizbullah has nothing to do with the Lebanese Hezbullah.
In Turkish political circles there is overall consent about the new law. Even the opposition recognizes that very long remands are unjust. But there is criticism too: some lawyers say the law doesn’t go far enough. The maximum remand can in some cases still be five to ten years under the new law.