ANKARA (AFP) – The Turkish parliament on Wednesday postponed until next week a debate on a controversial security bill bolstering police powers that critics claim could harshly restrict freedom in the country.
The so-called “homeland security reform” bill was submitted to parliament by the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) following deadly pro-Kurdish protests in October.
But the AKP decided at the last minute Wednesday that debates should now only begin next week, as parliament had not yet completed other business, Turkish television reported. The earliest the bill is now expected to be debated is February 10.
It was not immediately clear if the motive for the postponement was entirely procedural or if there was another cause. Opposition parties had threatened to block the work of parliament if the debates went ahead.
The bill gives police sweeping new powers to search and detain suspects on mere suspicion. Police would be allowed to arrest, and even fire on, those suspected of possessing banned objects at a protest including Molotov cocktails, stones and other sharp objects.
Those in possession of such objects at protests would face up to four years in jail. It calls for stricter punishment for offenders wearing masks to conceal their identity.
Its introduction followed violent protests in southeastern Turkey that left scores of people dead in October over Turkey’s Syria policy.
“We won’t accept this ‘fascism package’ that totally disregards the judiciary, wipes out rights and freedom and brings the society to its knees,” Hasip Kaplan, an MP from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
But Interior Minister Efkan Ala claimed Wednesday that the legislation was supported by 80 per cent of the Turkish population.
“These measures assure the security of the lives and the assets of our citizens,” he told the state Anatolia news agency in an interview Wednesday.