Turkish PM announces bill empowering law enforcement
Prime Minister Davutoglu explains use of new powers will be monitored by a parliamentary rights watchdog
Turkish government will introduce a new bill that would give more powers to law enforcement agencies in Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced Tuesday.
The bill package will restructure the Interior Ministry and the Turkish Police department, and will introduce measures to prevent crime, the prime minister said.
Davutoglu said the reform of Turkey's domestic security will enable the handling of massive acts of violence more rapidly and more effectively. Tuesday's announcement followed a Cabinet decision announced earlier in October by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
"We prepared the reform package on domestic security and the protection of freedoms after a week of intensive efforts," Davutoglu told the group meeting of his Justice and Development (AK) Party at the Turkish parliament.
"All authority over the personnel and the records of the Turkish Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard will be transferred to the Interior Ministry -- with the exception of matters relating to the military. It is high time to strengthen Turkey's civilian and democratic character," he said.
The prime minister added that the military uniforms of the gendarmerie will be replaced with a special outfit designated by the Interior Ministry that is more like civilian clothing.
Davutoglu emphasized that all authority to use technical surveillance and intelligence-based wiretapping by the security forces will be placed under control of a parliamentary supervisory committee.
As a measure against any abuse of power by law enforcement forces, the 17 member committee -- whose members will be taken from all parties represented in the parliament -- will review and evaluate police surveillance actions intended to prevent crime.
"The new law will prevent any sort of attack against peaceful gatherings and demonstrations, but will handle all acts and demonstrations turning violent as a crime," Davutoglu said.
He noted that the police powers for personal and vehicle searches will be placed under judicial scrutiny. He said police will be able to act preemptively and may make such searches upon intelligence of possible criminal activity through an appropriate search warrant.
New penalties for possession of weapons and incitement to violence
Davutoglu also announced that the possession of Molotov cocktails will be considered a crime, describing them as an "instrument of assault" and pointing out that it was punished with life imprisonment in the U.K. and with heavy penalties in the U.S.
As for other new measures the bill introduces, Davutoglu added that protesters covering their faces will be regarded as potential criminals and prevented from taking part in demonstrations -- it is a "declaration that the person will commit a crime by hiding his identity."
"The penalty for possession of weapons, which now ranges from 6 months to 3 years, will be increased to 2.5 to 4 years," he also said.
Turkish police will also be granted the authority to impose 24-hour detention with the approval of the prosecutor or the deputy governor and under the supervision of their superiors.
Davutoglu said the prosecutor could extend the detention period for up to four days, after which the detained person should appear before a court.
The security reform will also enable the courts to demand that the criminal pay for damages resulting from the crime.
"Those dealing drugs, including bonzai, will be treated like terrorists, and the penalties will double if the crime is committed near schools," he pointed out.
Bonzai is a cheap, addictive and potent form of a marijuana-like substance. Its use has recently surged in Turkey as reported seizures of the substance in 2011-2012 increased nine-fold.
The bill will also label calls for violence made via social media platforms as criminal acts, and further legal measures will be taken against social media platforms if such calls lead to massive acts of violence.
However, all of the proposed reforms, Davutoglu said, must first be approved by the European Union Harmonization Committee at the Turkish parliament -- the body established in 2003 to see that new Turkish legislation is in sync with that of the EU.
In preparing the new security reform, the Turkish government reviewed models from EU-member countries for potential application in Turkey.
The bill comes after the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, -led demonstrations during the Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) holiday at the beginning of October resulted in the deaths of 38 people.
Last Modified: 2014-10-22 09:09:45
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