Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş on Monday urged Turkey’s opposition leaders to take action against what he called violation of inmates’ rights.
The former chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic People’s Party (HDP) took to Twitter to call on the politicians to visit the country’s prisons, where he claimed the government was implementing restrictions on family and lawyer visits under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic measures.
The Justice Ministry is looking to turn the crisis into on opportunity and “transform (current) restrictions into permanent usurping of rights,’’ Demirtaş said.
Demirtaş’s remarks arrive amid a prisoners protest in northwest Turkey’s Edirne facility, where he is jailed on a string of terror charges, over what inmates are calling arbitrary restrictions that limit visitations by family members and lawyers.
“The Edirne prison has been echoing with protest slogans for 20 days. Do you hear them?’’ the HDP’s former chair said.
“Opposition leaders who carry out various visits, would you consider visiting (the country’s) prisons with a 300,000 population? It would be of benefit for you to see the state they are in. For I have seen enough of it.’’
Demirtaş, one of Turkey’s most prominent politicians, has been behind bars since 2016. He is on trial for multiple terror-related cases and faces up to 142 years in prison. In March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) urged the immediate release of Demirtaş, accusing Ankara of violating its previous rulings by failing to free the politician.
Pandemic measures have almost been lifted across Turkey, but have remained in effect in Turkey’s prisons, the İstanbul Bar Association and İstanbul Medical Chamber said last month.
The ongoing practices in prisons are leading to violations of right to healthcare and fair trial, Bianet news site cited them as saying.
Prisoners are having increasing problems accessing healthcare and means of treatment during the pandemic, as well as limitations to access on time spent in fresh air, it cited İstanbul Medical Chamber chairwoman Pınar Saip as saying.