A draft law taken to parliament in Turkey has proposed greater powers for police on matters including detention, weapons and wiretapping. This comes as Kurds protest over the situation in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
Parliamentarians in Ankara began debate on controversial new homeland security reforms on Tuesday, a bill also proposing tougher citizenship rules and measures to combat what some in the government perceive as moral decay in the country.
News agency AFP and Turkish daily Hürriyet were among the outlets to obtain a copy of the draft bill, dispersed to the 550-seat parliament ready for the debate. Considering the 312 seats held by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the bill was expected to pass without issue despite fierce opposition resistance.
Police powers and the response to public protests featured heavily, Hürriyet reported. Law enforcers would be permitted to arrest people if they "jeopardize the safety of themselves or other individuals," also allowing 24 hours of detention without charge if the person was seized in an "illegal demonstration." That could stretch to 48 hours in the case of a violent demonstration, Hürriyet reported.
Defining weapons, easing wiretaps
Pro-Kurdish protests around Turkey, a response to the plight of Kurdish nationals at the hands of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" in Iraq and the Syrian border town of Kobani, claimed more than 30 lives last month.
The European Union and other international bodies also staunchly criticized the often violent Turkish police response to the protests stemming from Gezi Park in Istanbul last year.
The draft would define Molotov cocktails, fireworks and similar handmade arms as weapons, allowing police to respond with their own firearms. The bill also calls for stricter punishments for offenders who damage public property, wear a mask for disguise or resist the police.
"It will allow for strong precautionary measures to be put in place against vandals who are trying to get rid of freedom of assembly and protest," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the parliament.
The police's response to last year's protests in Istanbul, and then beyond, prompted international criticism
Another measure suggested the use of colored water in water cannons, allowing police to recognize "tagged" protesters after the event.
The largest opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has been particularly critical of proposals to allow investigators to wiretap and receive signal information on suspects for 48 hours without a judge's permission in cases where delays could damage their case. The practice is currently permitted, but with a 24-hour limit. Only cases overseen by the Ankara High Criminal Court judge would be able to be extended beyond the 48-hour mark, Hürriyet reported. The CHP argues that this provision may be used to spy on and defame Turkey's opposition.
'General morality' - no laughing matter
A new condition under debate is the addition of "general morality" to the list of conditions for foreigners seeking to become Turkish citizens. AFP reported that the bill's text did not specify how general morality would be assessed by officials processing applications.
The ruling Islamist AKP has repeatedly lamented what it considers a moral decline in Turkey, rather controversially seeking to turn good behavior, especially for women, into an election talking point earlier this year.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reopened the debate on Monday, saying that men and women should not be treated equally, because of women's "delicate nature" and the importance placed on motherhood by Islam.
"Their characters, habits and physiques are different. ... You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men," Erdogan said. "You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regimes. You cannot give them a shovel and tell them to do their work. This is against their delicate nature."
Opposition politicians responded critically, with CHP parliamentarian Aylin Nazliaka saying Erdogan had "publicly committed a hate crime," saying the president "sees no difference between terrorists and feminists."
This follows a long-running AKP-led debate on the issue, characterized in recent months by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who served as prime minister briefly this year after Erdogan's transition from head of government to head of state.
Arinc had prompted outrage and inventive social media campaigns when he blamed moral decline in Turkey partly on women who laugh loudly in public. He also called for "chasteness" to be protected, citing examples like married women holidaying with another lover or others who could not resist an alluring dance if they clapped eyes on a pole.
msh/mkg (AFP, dpa)