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Turkey approves tough new security law

The Turkish parliament has passed a contentious security law that gives police more powers. The bill sparked vehement criticism from the opposition, which fears it could be used to suppress dissent ahead of elections.

The Turkish parliament passed its controversial homeland security bill on Friday after 16 hours of heated debate over an all-night session. The bill passed with a vote of 199-32, the Dogan news agency reported.

Although the government stripped the bill of some of its articles amid fierce criticism from members of the opposition, who said it will turn Turkey into a police state, some of its most contentious measures remained.

These include allowing the use of firearms against protesters, and giving jail terms for protesters who carry Molotov cocktails and other such weapons.

Kurdish demonstrators in Ankara

Kurds held violent protests in October last year

The bill was put before parliament in response to deadly pro-Kurdish protests in October and a series of demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - then prime minister - in May-June 2013.

Growing authoritarianism?

Members of Turkey's Kurdish minority have said they fear that the law could be used to target them. Opposition parties have accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of increasing authoritarianism.

Critics also fear that the law could be abused by authorities to crack down on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections in June.

The government withdrew the bill last month after vehement opposition to the bill from some quarters led to brawls in parliament.

Ankara said the series of security reforms it has enacted only serve to bring police powers into line with those of its European partners - something that is hotly disputed by rights groups, which have said freedom of expression and the state-ordained secularism in Turkey are under threat from the AKP.

The parliament also passed another contentious law on Friday allowing ministers to restrict access to websites deemed to threaten lives, public order or people's rights and freedoms.

tj/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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