ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s ruling party on Tuesday, February 17, sought to push through parliament a contentious security bill boosting police powers to crack down on protests, with the opposition using delaying tactics to thwart the debate.
The opposition fears the bill will effectively create a police state under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition lawmakers were introducing motions on unrelated issues to prevent the debate starting at a marathon midnight session in Ankara.
The so-called “homeland security reform” bill was submitted to parliament by the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) after deadly pro-Kurdish protests in October.
“We consider it a law that facilitates a switch to an authoritarian state,” Aykan Erdemir, a lawmaker for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Agence France-Presse.
“Opposition parties will do their best to slow it down and stop it from coming to the parliament floor,” he said, adding that parliament was scheduled to work flat out, including weekends, in order to pass the legislation.
There was commotion in the chamber as the opposition sought to block the bill, with deputies crowding round the speaker’s chair.
‘You won’t succeed’
The bill broadens police powers to carry out searches during protests and gives police the powers to detain people for up to 48 hours without the authorization of a prosecutor.
It also permits police to use firearms to prevent an attack in a public place against people using Molotov cocktails or similar weapons.
It gives provincial governors the authority to instruct police to pursue suspects, without needing to go through the judiciary.
Erdogan said Tuesday the bill should have been legislated much earlier.
“The homeland security law must rapidly pass right now and be put into practice as soon as possible.”
The president also warned protesters that they had no chance of changing the country’s course under his leadership.
“I want to appeal to those who… think they can change the country’s direction through a couple of street protests, Molotovs: you will not succeed. You are working in vain. This train will not go off the track,” he said.
In a note to lawmakers, the AKP stood behind the legislation and said it was compatible with the EU laws, describing it as a “package protecting freedoms”.
It argued that in countries such as Austria, Italy, Germany and Britain security forces are granted the right to search people and vehicles without prior authorization.
But Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter: “Turkey can’t hide behind EU laws to justify its sorry record of police abuse and detention of non-violent protesters.”
The bill comes after Erdogan was shaken by protests in 2013 against his rule which were eventually broken up by tough police tactics.
But the ostensible trigger for the bill was violent protests in southeastern Turkey and Istanbul on October 6-7 over Turkey’s Syria policy. The protests left scores of people dead.
The draft legislation has sparked outrage among lawyers and opposition parties and around 3,000 lawyers rallied on Monday in protest at the bill.
If passed, the law also risks jeopardizing the peace process between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK’s political wing KCK said in a statement on Sunday, February 15, that the security bill would put the Kurdish peace process “in danger,” adding that it would lead to more authoritarianism.
Government officials have been locked in talks with Kurdish representatives in the hope of reaching a deal on disarmament of the separatist rebels by Kurdish New Year in March. – Rappler.com