Turkey’s Parliament Passes Contested Security, Surveillance Laws

After weeks of heated debates and brawls in parliament, Turkey’s government passed a security package expanding police powers, along with an online surveillance law and a discretionary fund for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fund covert operations.

The parliament voted to approve security laws that allow police to conduct searches and arrests without immediate court orders and use firearms against militants. The law separately empowered government-appointed governors to order police or paramilitary forces to conduct searches and detain suspects for up to 48 hours without immediate court orders, state-run Anadolu Agency said. Protesters are banned from carrying fire crackers, firebombs, iron pellets and slingshots, along with covering faces during demonstrations.

The online surveillance law will allow police to keep wiretapping or monitoring online activities of suspects without court orders for 48 hours.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, vowed to seek cancellation of the law by the country’s constitutional court before June 7 parliamentary elections, Anadolu reported.

CHP and another opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, also criticized the surveillance law and a special fund for spending by Erdogan on state affairs, including covert operations “related to the state’s national security and interests,” Anadolu said today.

Erdogan is seeking to replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one that expands his powers at the expense of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s government. Davutoglu, Erdogan’s hand-picked successor as prime minister and leader of the ruling AK Party, has not clarified his views on a transition to a presidential system.

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