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More violence over Turkey security bill

February 20, 2015

Turkey's parliament has again erupted into violence over a government bill that would give police further powers in handling protesters. The law would allow the use of firearms, and conduct searches without warrants.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (front C) attends a swearing in ceremony at the parliament in Ankara August 28, 2014.
Image: Reuters

Lawmakers from the incumbent Justice and Development party (AKP) and opposition parties came to blows over the "Homeland Security Bill" this week.

One MP, Orhan Duzgun from the center-left Republic People's Party, even fell down the stairs just as the debate was due to begin. Another reportedly brought a helmet as protection.

Similar scenes were reported throughout the week, according to Turkish media. On Tuesday five legislators were injured—including two with head injuries from a ceremonial gavel—in a fight which saw chairs thrown around the chamber.

Contentious bill

The draft legislation would allow the country's police to use firearms against protesters and carry out searches without warrants.

But opponents say the bill would turn Turkey into a police state by allowing the country's police to use firearms against protesters and carry out searches without warrants.

The punishments for people participating in violent protests would also be increased, and governors would be permitted to direct police in special circumstances, without going through the judiciary.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused the opposition of condoning violence, as well as protesters using weapons, through their resistance to the draft law. He argues that many European countries allow security forces to search people and vehicle without prior authorization.

Turkey's opposition parties have vowed to stop the bill from coming to the parliament floor, and are using tactics such as presenting motions on unrelated subjects to delay this.

The Hurriyet newspaper said that prior to speeches beginning on the government-driven bill on Thursday, members of the opposition voiced objections for more than three hours.

The government needs to pass the draft legislation before general election in June.

HRW weighs in

Emma Sinclair-Webb , from civil liberties group Human Rights Watch, said the increase in the command of the police would raise the chances of citizens experiencing state abuse.

"In Turkey, given the existing context, there is a real risk, if not likelihood, that more authority to use firearms by police during protests will simply equal more citizen deaths," she wrote on the group's website.

Protest motive?

The bill was written following widespread pro-Kurdish demonstrations in October, that saw 40 people killed.

In 2013 protests against the rule of President Erdogan were crushed by police, followed by deadly violence in southeastern Turkey and Istanbul in early October over the country's policy on Syria.

The law could also endanger ongoing peace discussions between Turkey's government and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker' Party (PKK).

The rebel group has been at the forefront of an insurgency that has seen around 40,000 people killed, and has said the draft law would "drag Turkey into darkness."

The separatists' leader has been in talks with Erdogan since 2012.

an/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)