News / Europe

Turkey's Gul Seen Approving Tighter Control of Internet, Courts

FILE - Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
FILE - Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's president has signaled he will approve new laws tightening controls over the courts and the Internet, bolstering embattled Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan but deepening concerns about free speech and the rule of law.
The two bills, passed by parliament this month and awaiting President Abdullah Gul's approval, are seen by Erdogan's critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government, a bid to stymie court cases and to stop leaks circulating online.
The new law on the judiciary will give the government more influence over the naming of judges and prosecutors, while the Internet bill will enable the authorities to block access to web pages within hours without a prior court order.
The moves by Turkey, which has been seeking membership of the European Union for decades, have raised concern in Brussels, which fears it is shifting further away from EU norms, and unnerved investors in a country whose stability over the past decade has been based on Erdogan's firm rule.
The government says the laws will further democracy by taking back control of a judiciary it sees as in hock to a powerful but unaccountable cleric bent on unseating Erdogan, and by protecting individuals' privacy on the Internet.
Police fired teargas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Internet law in Istanbul this month, and parliamentarians debating the judicial reforms came to blows on Sunday, leaving one with a broken nose.
Erdogan's opponents have called on Gul, who co-founded the ruling AK Party with him in 2001 but is generally seen as a more conciliatory figure than the combative prime minister, to use his powers to veto the bills. Speaking to reporters on a trip to Hungary late on Monday, he gave little sign he would do so.
“As the president I cannot put myself in the position of the constitutional court. But in a very general way, I can make my objections concerning the points I see,” he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet and Haberturk newspapers.
Gul pointed out he had raised concerns about the AK Party's first draft of the judicial reform bill, which had since been amended, and that the opposition had already indicated it would in any case appeal to the constitutional court.
“That is our tradition. Presidents before me would say 'the constitutional court decides on the subject of laws in which there are arguments for and against',” he was quoted as saying.
Gul has also said there are “problems” with some elements of the Internet law, which the country's communications minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying may still be amended.

Political ambition
Gul has made little secret of his desire to return to mainstream politics and is seen as a future leader of the AKP, an ambition his critics say leaves him too wary of conflict with Erdogan to act as an effective check on his power.
“Gul wants to serve as president for a second term and has the desire to chair the AKP after Erdogan, so even if he does not fully agree, he is approving controversial regulations from the party,” Turkish political analyst Atilla Yesilada said in a report.
The battle for control of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which appoints senior members of the judiciary, lies at the heart of a feud between Erdogan and influential U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen, whose followers say they number in the millions, is believed to have built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades and leads a powerful worldwide Islamic movement from a forested compound in the United States.
Erdogan blames Gulen, a former ally who helped cement AK Party support over the past decade, for unleashing the graft investigation, which he sees as an attempted “judicial coup” meant to undermine him in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year. The cleric denies any such role.
Gul is seen as enjoying more support from Gulen's network of sympathizers, who view themselves as pro-democratic and reformist, then Erdogan, whose views on issues from abortion to alcohol they see as unnecessary interference in private life.
But Gul has also been critical of the cleric's influence in state institutions in recent months, appearing to close ranks with Erdogan and echoing the prime minister's warning that a “state within the state” will not be tolerated.
In the eyes of Turkey's opposition, too weak in parliament to stall AKP bills, that opens the way for Erdogan to impose an increasingly authoritarian rule.
“If the president approves the HSYK law, the judiciary will be bound completely to the government. The separation of powers will be completely shelved,” said Devlet Bahceli, head of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“I fear that Prime Minister Erdogan will sit at the top of the judiciary as the chief judge.”

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs