International

Brussels worried by Turkey's 'police state' law

ANKARA: The European Parliament’s new rapporteur on Turkey voiced concerns Thursday over a new security bill critics claim could turn the country back into a “police state”.

Kati Piri said she was worried by the government-backed “homeland security reform”, currently being debated by a parliament commission, which gives police sweeping new powers to search and detain suspects.

Human Rights Watch called the bill “alarming”, adding that “the government has already pushed problematic new police measures through parliament, and now it wants to give itself even greater security powers.”

“Parliament should put the brakes on and ensure that this bill protects human rights as well as public safety,” said the group’s senior Turkey researcher, Emma Sinclair-Webb.

Dutch MEP Piri, who met Turkish government officials as well as political party leaders on a visit to Ankara, said she was concerned about police use of violence.

“Violence by the police can only used at a last resort, so we very much stress that this should be at least reflected in this type of legislation.

“Concerns are there to make sure violence is only used restrictively,” she told reporters.

The homeland security bill would stiffen penalties for people involved in some protests and allow provincial governors to instruct police to focus on particular crimes and perpetrators, apparently usurping the role of prosecutors and judges.

Its introduction followed violent protests in southeastern Turkey that left scores of people dead on October 6 and 7 over Turkey’s reluctance to help besieged Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane.

The bill is expected to pass as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a comfortable majority in the 550-seat parliament. Opposition lawmakers denounced the new measures, saying they would turn Turkey into a police state.

Turkey has made little progress in membership negotiations with the EU since they formally opened in 2005.

Ankara’s record on human rights has drawn scrutiny from Brussels while some member states have concerns over granting membership to such a large Muslim country.

Piri, on her first visit to Turkey as rapporteur, said the European Parliament would engage with Turkey for the opening of Chapters 23 and 24 of the accession talks, dealing with the independence of judiciary, media freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

“We need to further engage in order to make progress on this,” she said, calling for cross-party cooperation to make the necessary reforms.

Piri emphasised that concerns would be reflected in her report on Turkey which would be voted in the European Parliament next year.

She said the accession process was not just about closer economic links but also about “developing a system of values that can consolidate further democratisation in Turkish society.” -AFP

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