News / Europe

Turkey's 'Anti-Terror' Law Casts Increasingly Wide Net

FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dorian Jones
— Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's democratic reform package is facing criticism following the Justice Ministry's revelation that 20,000 people have been convicted under the country's anti-terrorism law during the last four years, 8,000 of whom were jailed just in the last 12 months. Most of them, including journalists and members of the country's legal Kurdish party, were jailed for non-violent offenses.
 
Turkey’s anti-terror law is facing growing national and international criticism. The law was introduced in 1991 to counter an insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. But concerns have been growing that the law is increasingly used to target critics of the government.

Emma Sinclair Webb, senior researcher on Turkey for the U.S.-based organization Human rights Watch, says there has been an alarming increase in the use of the anti-terror law.
 
"According to official figures of the Justice Ministry, in the last four years an enormous number of people - somewhere around 40,000 - have been prosecuted for membership of armed organizations, and half of them have received convictions under that law. Now it applies disproportionately to Kurds in Turkey, but it also applies to other groups: it has been used against leftists, it has been used against journalists, students, for activities which could not in any way be counted as terrorism," said Webb.

The failure to reform the law in last month’s government democracy package was criticized domestically and internationally. Richard Howitt, a British member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and human rights committees, said the Turkish government had missed a "key opportunity" to change the anti-terror law.  Adding to those concerns, the anti-terror law is now being used against those involved in last June’s anti government protests.  The European Union’s annual progress report released this week strongly criticized Turkey over freedom of expression and assembly, and called for legal and judicial reform.

In launching his democracy package, Prime Minister Erdogan tacitly acknowledged its shortcomings by acknowledging the need for further reforms.

"These reforms will never be the last and there will be other reforms to enhance freedom and democracy in Turkey. Opposition parties are trying to exploit the sensitivities and fears of the people over the reforms," said Erdogan.

Observers say these popular sensitivities are especially important given the local, presidential and general elections scheduled to take place in Turkey over the next 18 months.

The image of being weak on terrorism is unlikely to win votes among the ruling AK Party’s core constituents, according to Cengiz Aktar, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf.

"The prime minister, like every other politician, wants to stay in power. He thinks the only solid constituency he can gain votes from is Turkish nationalist voters," said Aktar.

The thousands of members of Turkey’s legal pro-Kurdish Party, the BDP, would be among the main beneficiaries of any reform of the anti-terror law. The BDP claims over 6,000 of its members are being held under the law, including dozens of mayors. Their release is a key demand of the PKK as part of the Kurdish rebel group's peace talks with the government. But those talks are currently stalled.

According to international human rights groups, the anti-terror law is the reason why Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. Award-winning journalist Ahmet Şık, who is facing 15 years in jail under the law, says it is a threat to democracy in Turkey.
 
"We live in a time in which students demanding free education are immediately labeled as terrorists. Journalists are also seen as terrorists. There is an incredible regime of suppression, he says: whoever raises their voice in opposition can be imprisoned on terrorism charges," said Şık.

The government rejects such criticism, insisting that it has introduced unprecedented democratic reforms during its decade in power. But observers warn that the voices of journalists like Şık, who addressed the European Parliament last year, are expected to weigh heavily on EU leaders next month, when they are expected to decide whether or not to put Turkey’s membership bid back on track.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mazhar Efendi from: Cleveland, Ohio
October 21, 2013 7:28 AM
US Foreign Service: Please do not accept placement of your new embassy on grounds stolen from the Ataturk Orman Ciftligi. Please stop your support for this or any related group purporting to be moderate Islam. You nurture false champions of the concept, mercenaries that run counter to your core values. They are a horse of a different color. Best Regards.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid