Body search requirement lifted for jailed Kurdish leader after outrage

A prison administration in northwestern Turkey has backed off its requirement that jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş undergo a body check before and after prison visits after attracting widespread criticism and protests from the politician, Turkish Minute reported.

Demirtaş’s lawyer, Ramazan Demir, announced on X on Wednesday that he had travelled to Edirne Prison in northwestern Turkey to meet with his client but said Demirtaş did not show up for the meeting due to a new practice requiring him to submit to a body search before and after every visit.

The lawyer said since Demirtaş finds the practice “humiliating,” he will never agree to it and as a result will no longer accept visits from his family members, lawmakers and lawyers.

Human rights activists and the pro-Kurdish Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) slammed the Justice Ministry for introducing the body search requirement for Demirtaş and called on it to end the practice as soon as possible.

The Demirtaş Defense Group, a platform comprising Demirtaş’s lawyers, said in a statement on Thursday that the prison administration has abandoned the controversial practice and that the politician can again receive prison visits.

Demirtaş, the most prominent Kurdish politician in Turkey today, has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges. He was a vocal critic of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and challenged Erdoğan in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018.

He is being held in prison despite four court decisions for his release that were handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2018, the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court in 2019, the Constitutional Court in 2020 and the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in 2021.

He was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the predecessor of the DEM Party, when he was arrested.

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