Life imprisonment in Turkey
Life imprisonment in Turkey is a legal form of punishment and the most severe form of punishment. In most cases life imprisonment replaced capital punishment. Law 4771 of 3 August 2002 abolished the death penalty for peace time and replaced capital punishment with life imprisonment for 17 provisions of the Turkish Penal Code. Law 5218 of 14 July 2004 abolished the death penalty completely. This law provided that in some 40 provisions of the Turkish Penal Code and other laws such as the Law on Forests the death penalty was replaced by aggravated life imprisonment (tr: ağırlaştırılmış müebbet ağır hapis cezası).
New laws since 2005
On 1 June 2005 a number of new laws such as a new penal code (Law 5237), a new code of criminal proceedings (Law 5271) and new law on the execution of sentences (Law 5275) entered into force. Articles 45 to 52 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC) of 2005 divide sentences into strict imprisonment, ordinary imprisonment, and fines. Imprisonment is divided into aggravated life imprisonment, life imprisonment and termed sentences of imprisonment. Indefinite sentences besides life imprisonment and aggravated life imprisonment do not exist in Turkey. Article 47 TPC states that aggravated life imprisonment will last for a whole life.
The Law 5275 on the Execution of Sentences provides that prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment are held in rooms for one person and are allowed one hour of open air or sports per day. Under subparagraph c), prisoners serving aggravated life imprisonment may have their daily one-hour open-air exercise and sports period extended and may be allowed to engage in limited contact with prisoners accommodated in the same unit, depending on the risk factors, security requirements and the efforts and good behaviour they demonstrate in rehabilitation and educational activities. Under subparagraph d), such prisoners may engage in a trade or occupational activity considered suitable by the administrative board, if conditions in the place where they are held so permit. They can make phone calls of 10 minutes length every fortnight and receive visits of one hour's length every two weeks. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) considers that the very philosophy underlying Article 25 of Law 5275 should be rethought. The decision whether or not to impose an isolation-type regime, in CPT's view, should lie with the prison authorities and always be based on an individual risk assessment of the prisoner concerned; further, the regime should be applied for as short a time as possible, which implies that the decision imposing it should be reviewed at regular intervals.
Pardon and conditional release
Article 107 of the Law on the Execution of Sentences (LES) provides that in case of good conduct (tr: iyi hâl) prisoners may be released on condition. In cases of rehabilitation, ill health, or permanent disability, the President of the Republic may pardon inmates. Prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment can be paroled after serving at least 36 years, or 40 years if given more than one sentence. For those convicted of terrorism, there is no parole, and thus they will spend the rest of their lives in prison. In addition, they can be pardoned or have their sentence reduced by the President. Inmates sentenced to ordinary life imprisonment can be paroled after serving 30 years, or 36 years if given more than one sentence. However, parole is not mandatory, and if rejected, inmates can reapply every three years. All other people sentenced to terms of imprisonment can be paroled for good behavior after they serve two-thirds of their sentence, or three-fourths if sentenced in cases of terrorism or sex crimes, in prison. However, parole is only possible if the inmate made no violations of prison rules. For those sentenced to less than one year in prison, they can be released after serving half the sentence.
Article 107 LES also provides that released prisoners are subject to a supervision period (tr: denetim süresi) that lasts half of the time spent in prison. Only after this period the sentence will count as being executed. Paragraph 16 of Article 107 LES provides that people convicted to aggravated life imprisonment for crimes specified in the Turkish Penal Code in volume two, section four on "crimes again the security of the State" in chapter four on "crimes against the Constitutional order" and chapter five on "crimes against national defence" the provisions on conditional release do not apply (i.e. they stay in prison until death). These same provisions apply for any cases of terrorism, and inmates are required to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
The maximum sentence for those aged 15–18 for murder is 24 years in prison, with eligibility for parole after serving two thirds of the sentence. For those aged 12–14, the maximum sentence is 15 years in prison, with eligibility for parole after serving half the sentence. Parole is only possible if the juvenile has maintained good behavior, and has not violated any prison rules. If the accused does not maintain good behavior, he or she is required to serve the full sentence in prison. Life imprisonment may only be imposed for juveniles in cases crimes against the security of the state, crimes against the constitution, crimes against national defense, honor killings, and terrorism.
- See the full text of Law 4771 on the page of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey; accessed on 12 May 2011
- See the full text of Law 5218 on the page of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey; accessed on 12 May 2011
- See the translation of selected Article of the Turkish Penal Code on pages of the Democratic Turkey Forum; accessed on 12 May 2011
- See the wording in Turkish at BelgeNet; accessed on 12 May 2011
- See the full text of Law 5275 on the page of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey; accessed on 12 May 2011
- Report to the Turkish Government on the visit to Turkey carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 7 to 14 December 2005. The report can be found on the pages of the Council of Europe