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Turkey Releasing 38,000 Prisoners To Make Room For Suspected Coup Plotters

A high-security prison complex is seen behind the fences in Silivri, some 50 miles west of Istanbul.

Turkey is ordering the conditional release of some 38,000 prisoners to free up space for the thousands of people arrested in the aftermath of last month's failed coup.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced the order Wednesday, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul. Peter tells our Newscast unit:

"[Bozdag] posted the news on his Twitter account: tens of thousands of inmates to be released early, none of them violent offenders and all nearing the end of their terms.

"State media reported that the move is an effort to clear prison space for the growing number of people under arrest since the July 15 failed coup."

The state-run Anadolu Agency reports that the justice minister said the order "excludes people convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or crimes against the state." It adds: "In a televised address on local Turkish TV channel, A HABER, Bozdag shed some light on the issue, saying, 'There are a total of 214,000 inmates in prisons right now. The decree only concerned 93,000 convicts.' "

Only inmates who committed their crimes before July 1 — two weeks before the coup attempt — are eligible for early release.

The decree falls under a three-month state of emergency granting the government extraordinary powers, which was imposed after the coup attempt.

Another order issued the same day dismissed some 2,000 police officers, hundreds of soldiers, and workers at the country's main telecommunications surveillance facility, Peter reports.

Thousands of people have been detained or arrested and tens of thousands more have been dismissed from their jobs in mass purges of suspected followers of Fethullah Gulen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Gulen, an elderly Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania, for fomenting the failed coup and is seeking his extradition from the U.S.

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