World

Turkey Approves Strict Anti-Terror Law Restricting Freedom of Movement

Shortly after Turkey lifted its two-year-old state of emergency, the country’s parliament ratified a new anti-terror bill that significantly curbs freedom of movement within the country.

The state of emergency was implemented in the wake of a failed military coup against ruling strongman Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. Since then, the Turkish leader has cracked down on any perceived enemies, arresting and imprisoning tens of thousands and tightened his grip on power. Following the new anti-terror legislation passed Wednesday, which extends the powers of authorities to detain citizens, many viewed the decision to lift the state of emergency with skepticism.

"While the lifting of the state of emergency has been a signal to international partners, such as the German government, who responded favorably, the new anti-terror law aims at maintaining the status quo inside the country," Magdalena Kirchner, a senior analyst at Germany-based company CONIAS Risk Intelligence, told Newsweek. "On the one hand, there is still a considerable threat of terrorism by PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and jihadi groups operating out of Syria, the law deters also potential public protests and provides an instrument for quelling dissent in the bureaucracy." 

Similarly, the EU's position is that the new anti-terror law is a step in the wrong direction. 

“The end of the state of emergency in place in Turkey since the coup attempt of 2016 is a welcome step. At the same time, we believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Union, said in a statement.

583536494-594x594 A Turkish national flag is seen on Eyup sultan mosque on July 26, 2016 in Eyup district in Istanbul, following the failed military coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Turkey didn't lift its state of emergency until 2 years later. Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Under the new law, suspects can be held without charge for up to 48 hours, and people accused of multiple offenses can be held for as long as four days. The law also allows authorities to place strict restrictions on freedom of movement, and grants the government power to fire members of the Turkish Armed Forces, police and civil servants if they are believed to be linked to a terrorist organization.

It depends largely on Erdogan and his party to determine which organizations are labeled “terrorist.” The case of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail for two years, is viewed by analysts as an example of the arbitrary nature of Erdogan's crackdown against his perceived enemies. The evangelical missionary has been accused of collaborating with at least two terrorist groups, while evidence has been presented to the courts by anonymous witnesses. Brunson has maintained his innocence. 

Andrew_Brunson Andrew Craig Brunson is escorted by Turkish plain clothes police officers to his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25. His case is still ongoing. AFP/Getty Images

Many say the new law, which will be in force for at least the next three years, is a secretive way to extend the state of emergency.

“It’s the formalization of the status quo. And it’s indicative of the trajectory, which is extreme consolidation [of power],” Aron Stein, a Turkey analyst at the Washington, D.C.–based think tank Atlantic Council, told Newsweek.

In June, Erdogan won presidential elections that allowed him to dissolve the powers of the prime minister and hold onto power for the next five years.

“Since the consolidation of the presidential powers, many aspects of the state of emergency have been formalized. This law is another example," Stein added. "The president can introduce decrees and the legislature has to veto them for them not to take effect. During the state of emergency the decrees had to be affirmed, so in some ways the state of emergency had mechanisms that were even more democratic.”

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