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Turkey To Release 38,000 Prisoners Early To Make Room For Coup Conspirators


In Turkey, the government continues to pursue people it's linked to July's failed coup. At least 17,000 people have been arrested so far. To make room for all those people, the government is sending some inmates home early. NPR's Peter Kenyon has more from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: With Turkey's jails already overcrowded and thousands of soldiers, judges, prosecutors and police due to face charges in connection with the failed coup, some Turks have wondered where the government will put all the alleged coup plotters.

Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag posted the answer to his Twitter account. Thirty-eight-thousand of Turkey's more than 200,000 inmates are going home early. He says no one convicted of murder, sexual assault or terror-related crimes will get early release, and it will only apply to those within two years of finishing their sentences. No one arrested after July 1 would be eligible. That means nobody arrested following the failed coup could benefit.

Even as the order went into effect, the post-coup purge continues. A new decree was issued under Turkey's 3-month state of emergency. It announced the dismissal of 2,300 more police as well as nearly 3,000 civil servants. They're said to have ties to the clerk Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of ordering the coup.

Gulen, who's lived for years in the Pennsylvania countryside, has said he had nothing to do with the coup attempt. The government says Gulen's supporters infiltrated many sectors of the government over the years, including, apparently, a main surveillance authority that monitors telecommunications traffic. The facility known by the initials TIB was abruptly closed by emergency decree on the grounds that it was filled with Gulen backers and it carried out illegal wiretapping. The surveillance functions were shifted to another state telecom facility.

Turkey remains upset with the U.S. for not swiftly extraditing Gulen to face charges. An American delegation is due here next week to discuss the matter. That'll be followed by a visit from Vice President Joe Biden next Wednesday. He'll be attempting to shore up relations with an ally that at the moment is taking a very dim view of Washington's response to an effort to overthrow Turkey's elected government. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.