Three Turkish prisoners have died from COVID-19, Turkey’s justice minister has said, 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 the capital, Ankara, on Monday.
“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.
Thirteen of the sick convicts were in a 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 prison.
“There are no positive cases in closed prisons,” he added.
Turkey has nearly 57,000 COVID-19 infections and approximately 1,200 people have died, according to health ministry figures published on Sunday.
Bill to release prisoners
The confirmation of positive cases came as Turkish MPs were expected to continue debating on Monday a draft law to release 90,000 inmates from overcrowded prisons.
Human rights groups have criticised the proposal because it will not include political prisoners charged under Turkey’s controversial anti-terrorism laws.
The Turkish interior minister said he would resign on Sunday, after Turkey on Friday announced weekend lockdowns in a number of provinces just hours before they were due to go into effect, with many people rushing out to panic-buy food and drinks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Suleyman Soylu’s resignation, keeping him in his cabinet.
If his resignation had been accepted by Erdogan, Soylu would have been the second Turkish minister to leave his post since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.
Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan was removed two weeks ago after the ministry drew criticism for conducting a tender process amid the outbreak for the construction of a large canal on the edge of Istanbul.