Turkish Parliament accepts long debated intelligence bill
The intel bill passed from the Parliament after a 12-hour-debate among deputies from the governing and opposition parties.Parliament passed a hastily-drafted bill Feb. 17 to save top intelligence officials from a judicial probe as the government defended talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) but denied any promises to the militants.
As the bill was immediately sent to President Abdullah Gül for approval, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan notified the Ankara prosecutor tasked with questioning him that he had a busy schedule and would show up at “a convenient time,” media reports said. The prosecutor confirmed the notification but would not elaborate.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) pushed the amendment through Parliament at the end of a stormy 12-hour debate that ended early in the morning. Stepping back in the face of fierce objections from all opposition parties, the AKP revised the wording to narrow the scope of protection. The bill was passed on a 266-63 vote, suggesting that some 60 AKP deputies were absent along with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was away from the public eye since the crisis erupted due to a second intestinal surgery.
Under the amended Article 26 of the MİT Act, the prime minister’s permission will be required to investigate MİT members as well as “public officials the prime minister assigns to specific tasks” for crimes that arise from the nature of their duties or they commit while on duty, or for offenses handled by special-authority courts. The original version had included a reference to an obscure category described as “those assigned to special tasks by the prime minister.”
Speaking at the debate, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin defended talks between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said more talks could be held with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan “if need be.”
Referring to the latest contacts, he said: “We would have brought the issue to Parliament if the talks had produced a ground acceptable to the Turkish state and the government. Your interlocutor may say or demand incredible things but they are not binding if not accepted. I can openly declare that there is nothing the government has promised or guaranteed” to the PKK.
The probe targeting MİT has alarmed the government that it may also be implicated since Fidan and the four other MİT officials summoned for questioning have all been involved in talks with the PKK, which were reportedly held on Erdoğan’s personal instructions. Prosecutors suspect the MİT colluded with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the PKK’s alleged urban wing, and its operatives engaged in violence.
Fighting back accusations the bill would allow the premier to flout the law with impunity, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said, “Certain circles are making up slanders to tarnish the prime minister.”
Despite the narrowed scope of the bill, the opposition maintained its criticism. “Some public officials will be now able to engage in crime under special assignments by the prime minister,” main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said. “Erdoğan is doing things that even the generals of the 1980 coup could not do. We are entering even a darker period,” said Kılıçdaroğlu, whose party has vowed to ask the Constitutional Court to scrap the bill.