Kurdistan orders release of hundreds of detainees amid coronavirus fears
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has ordered that hundreds of pretrial detainees be released until their court dates to prevent the spread of coronavirus in facilities where they are held and because the current health crisis has brought most judiciary functions to a halt.
“Due to the decision to suspend governmental institutions, hundreds of individuals who have been arrested are stuck in detention centers. The Kurdistan Region’s judiciary has decided to release them until it is active again and until their trial dates come up,” said Ayad Kakayi, the head of the Kurdistan Bar Syndicate's office in Erbil, on Monday.
He added, “The decision to release the detainees was also because of the current circumstances, to avoid crowded conditions in detention centers during the coronavirus outbreak.”
Kakayi also pointed out that the decision does not apply to all detainees. Those who have been charged with “murder, terrorism, and drug trafficking will not be included in this decision and will remain in detention centers.”
A statement released by the regional Justice Ministry afterward said that 1,474 detainees had already been released, 89 of whom had unspecified special conditions attached to their release. Of the detainees temporarily set free, 812 were being held in Erbil province, 440 in Sulaimani, 170 in Duhok, and 22 in the Garmiyan Administration area.
“The process of freeing detainees and their conditional release will continue and we will announce new information in the coming days,” the statement concluded.
Multiple governments around the world scrambling to keep outbreaks of the virus from sweeping through their correctional facilities have ordered a variety of different such release or furlough programs for detainees.
According to the latest update by the KRG Ministry of Health, there are 280 confirmed cases of the deadly virus in areas under its jurisdiction, including three deaths and 105 patients who have recovered.
Officially referred to as COVID-19, the highly-contagious disease caused by the novel coronavirus was first reported by Chinese authorities in late 2019.
As it continues to spread in over 180 countries worldwide, it has infected nearly 1.4 million people and killed almost 80,000, according to government-reported data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or underreporting, particularly in countries that have weak health systems.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Kosar Nawzad)