Three Turkish prisoners die of coronavirus

A man walks in the deserted Taksim square in Istanbul, on April 12, 2020, during a two-day curfew to prevent the spread of the epidemic COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — Three Turkish prisoners have died from the coronavirus, Turkey’s justice minister said Monday as he announced the first cases of convicts diagnosed with the disease.

A total of 17 convicts in five open prisons have contracted the virus, Abdulhamit Gul told reporters in Ankara.

“Three of them, unfortunately, died during their treatment in hospital,” he said.

Some convicts are sent to open prisons towards the end of their sentences to serve out the remainder of their punishment as the state prepares them for release.

They are given permission to leave for temporary periods and must accept work, according to the Civil Society in Penal System Association.

Thirteen of the sick convicts are in good condition in hospital, Gul said, but one prisoner with chronic diseases remains in intensive care.

He did not give any further details on where the prisoners were but insisted the necessary precautions had been taken in every jail.

“There are no positive cases in closed prisons,” he added.

Turkey has nearly 57,000 COVID-19 infections and around 1,200 have died, according to health ministry figures published Sunday.

The confirmation of positive cases came before Turkish lawmakers were expected to continue debating Monday a draft law to release 90,000 inmates from overcrowded prisons.

Human rights groups have criticized the proposal because it will not include political prisoners charged under Turkey’s controversial anti-terrorism laws.

© Agence France-Presse