Ankara seeks to cool Europe criticism with few reforms
ANKARA - Turkey's Islamic-rooted government is set to submit a new legal package that would tune its often criticised anti-terrorism laws to European standards, parliamentary sources said Wednesday.
"The changes we have prepared will enable Turkey to move forward in the path of the rule of law and expand freedom of expression," said Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin.
The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) expects to submit the new rules to parliament this week. It would be the fourth legal patch released since 2010 aimed at stopping freedom violation cases from piling up before the European Court of Human Rights.
The reform makes a clear distinction between membership in an illegal organisation and aiding it, a parliamentary source said. Currently, anybody helping such an organisation or making its propaganda faces additional membership charges.
The change could lead to the release of nearly 1,000 Kurdish prisoners jailed on suspicions of ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community.
It could strengthen Ankara's hand in the ongoing talks with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to end the 29-year old insurgency that has claimed 45,000 lives, Turkish media reported.
The reform also seeks to abolish the 20-year statute of limitations for people involved in carrying out torture. Critics say some cases are being deliberately delayed so perpetrators can escape prosecution.
The head of a pan-European rights body last week called on EU hopeful Turkey, which has more jailed journalists than any other nation, to improve its dismal record on freedom of expression.
"There are still 450 cases pending against Turkey in the freedom of expression" domain before the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland told an Ankara conference.
Turkey has come under fire for its lengthy pre-trial detentions that have put hundreds of journalists, academics, lawyers and politicians behind bars on terrorism charges.
With this new reform, "any idea could be expressed as long as it does not induce violence," Ergin said.