News / Europe

    Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

    FILE - Members of the Turkish Parliament convene in Ankara, March 19, 2014.
    FILE - Members of the Turkish Parliament convene in Ankara, March 19, 2014.
    Dorian Jones
    Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation to bolster the powers of the country’s intelligence service, which the government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats the country faces. But opponents say the measure will deepen a trend towards greater authoritarianism by the government.

    Late Thursday, the Turkish Parliament passed contentious new legislation that will greatly enhance the powers of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, or M.I.T.

    Law Professor Istar Gozaydin of Istanbul’s Dogus University says the new legislation is unprecedented in powers and scope.

    "This much broader and much more ambiguous which limits the freedoms of expression, the freedoms of press, and communication. In the context of intelligence no accountability can be provided, so its very severe legislation that the system has never seen," said Gozaydin.

    The measure, which requires presidential approval before it becomes a law, would give the  M.I.T. access to information collected by public and private institutions without a court order and would expand its ability to carry out covert operations.

    The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, slammed the legislation.  

    "Turkey is rapidly turning into an intelligence state with the M.I.T," he said. "In Germany, they founded the Gestapo. Was it legal? Yes, it was legal. But it didn’t give intelligence to the state, but rather the party. The same incident is taking place here."

    Adding to those concerns is a senior deputy for the ruling AKP, Burhan Kuzu, who posted on the social media website Twitter: “When the MIT law is enacted, we will be able to enter the lairs of traitors inside and outside the country and what is necessary will be done.”

    Those words echoed the threat made by Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his victory in last month’s local elections.

    But the government insists it is facing an extraordinary threat to the security of the state by followers of Fetullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States.

    Osman Can, a former judge and member of the ruling AK Party’s central executive committee, claims they are defending democracy.

    "The Gulenists movement, in the judiciary and in the police department, they have the power. They have the facility to instrumentalize, for shaping policy.  And it is not democratic. And, it is also illegal," he said.

    The government accuses Gulen followers of trying to sabotage peace efforts by the M.I.T. with the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

    Analysts say the intelligence agency is one of a few state institutions the government trusts. Its chief, Hakan Fidan, is also a close ally and confidant of the prime minister.

    Soli Ozel, political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Haber Turk, says the new law is part of an alarming trend.

    "This is a triad. This is the Internet law, the changes to the higher council of judges and prosecutors, which basically make the judiciary an extension of the executive. So all of this basically leads us in one direction. That is, it’s not just that our state is unraveling but our democracy or democratic standards," said Ozel.

    Turkish President Abdullah Gul still has to ratify the new intelligence law, a move widely expected. Opposition parties will likely refer the law to the constitutional court. Observers say the new intelligence legislation, if its referred to the constitutional court, it is likely to come under intense scrutiny.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora