Turkish media criticize new governmental anti-terror law

Turkish media criticized the government's proposal for a revised anti-terror law Wednesday, saying the draft defined too many actions as terror and could easily be misused. If passed by parliament, the law could give prosecutors the authority to file terrorism-related charges against people arrested for human trafficking, polluting the environment and even the misuse of credit cards if those offenses are thought to be related to terrorist groups.

The new bill was submitted to a parliamentary committee Tuesday night and comes as Kurdish guerrillas stepped up their attacks in southeastern Turkey and followed a week of rioting in overwhelmingly Kurdish southeastern Turkey that left 13 people dead, mostly protesters. Turkey also is struggling to bring its laws into conformity with the regulations of the European Union, which Turkey is pressing to join.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper devoted its front page to criticizing the proposed law. "The reforms passed in the European Union process will be erased by a definition of terror that encompasses all crimes," Cumhuriyet said. "There is nothing left out in the definition."

The Radikal newspaper said the law would also bring back stiff restrictions on the press. "A journey to the past for freedom of expression!" the front page headline blared. But Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul defended the draft. "The fundamental spirit is to differentiate between the people and a terrorist organization," Radikal quoted him as saying. "There can be no going back on freedoms."

Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said the criticisms came from an incomplete reading of the draft. "There is a need for both security and freedom," he said. "The government continues to be sensitive on this subject." The bill will now face debate in the committee and could face revisions before it is brought to parliament's floor by the government, which has a strong majority in parliament.

Some 37,000 people have been killed since autonomy-seeking guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party took up arms in 1984. Turkey , the EU and the United States regard the group as a terrorist organization. Predominantly Muslim Turkey became an official candidate for the European Union last year, but negotiations over membership are expected to last a decade or more, reports the AP.


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