Turkey set for new ‘anti-terror’ law after emergency

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to MPs of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, July 7, 2018. (File Photo:AP/Burhan Ozbilici)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Turkey set for new ‘anti-terror’ law after emergency

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s ruling party on Monday submitted to parliament a new “anti-terror” bill that would bolster the powers of the authorities in detaining suspects and imposing public order even after the current two-year state of emergency ends.
The state of emergency, imposed in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been extended seven times and seen tens of thousands arrested.
With the government indicating that no new extension will be sought after Erdogan won a new mandate in June 24 presidential elections, the emergency is due to end overnight Wednesday to Thursday.
But state-run Anadolu news agency said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had submitted amendments to existing laws to parliament to deal with the “fight against terror after the state of emergency.”
Turkey considers itself to be simultaneously fighting several groups deemed by Ankara to be terror outfits, including Islamic State (IS) jihadists, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 putsch bid.
Under the proposed new legislation, authorities will be able to prohibit individuals exiting and entering a defined area for 15 days on security grounds, Anadolu said.
It says a suspect can be held without charge for 48 hours or up to four days in the case of multiple offenses.
But this period can be extended up to twice if there is difficulty in collecting evidence or if the case is deemed to be particularly voluminous.
The head of the AKP’s parliamentary group Bulent Turan said that the 28-article bill had been sent to opposition parties and expressed hope that it would be put to a vote next week.
The AKP fell short of a majority in the 600-seat parliament in the polls but is able to push through legislation with the support of its hard right allies, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“The state of emergency is going to end in the next days. But the end of the state of emergency does not mean our fight against terror is going to come to an end,” said Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul.


Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.