Ankara divided over legal shield for intel

Ankara divided over legal shield for intel

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara divided over legal shield for intel

The Parliament is to discuss today a proposal that would require special-authority prosecutors to obtain the PM’s permission to investigate intelligence members. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Government plans to shield intelligence officials from judicial probes appear to be opening a fresh rift within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as some lawmakers worry that coup suspects will also benefit from the proposed amendments.

With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resting in Istanbul after a second operation, Parliament’s Justice Commission was scheduled to convene today to discuss a proposal that would require special-authority prosecutors to obtain the prime minister’s permission to investigate members of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and others that he assigns to special tasks.

The debate, however, was preceded by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin’s remarks that broader changes were necessary to the Criminal Procedures Code that would require the acquisition of the prime minister’s permission before any number of top officials, including military commanders, could be subjected to judicial probes.

Some AKP deputies promptly objected to the plans, raising the prospect of an intra-party rift reminiscent of recent disagreements on the match-fixing law and on whether much-criticized lengthy pre-trial detentions should be shortened by law.

AKP deputy Recep Özel, who drafted the amendment to the MİT Act which will be discussed today, cast doubt on the possible ramifications of Ergin’s suggestions. 

“No one knows where such changes may lead. It’s unclear whom they would cover. There is no need for amendments other than the one in the MİT Act,” Özel told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that a temporary provision could be appended to his own draft today to cover incumbent officials.

Another AKP deputy, Mevlüt Akgün, who is also member of the Justice Commission, raised misgivings that curbing the powers of special-authority prosecutors would deal a blow to the massive investigations into the purported “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot against the AKP and Ergenekon, the alleged network that plotted political chaos to pave the way for a coup.

“I don’t think that such an arrangement would be right. Our prosecutors must have super powers, just as in Italy, when they move against shadowy groups like Ergenekon, coup attempts and extrajudicial killings,” Akgün told the Daily News.

“The prosecutors in the Ergenekon probe and similar cases are carrying out a very important task. These balances should be kept well,” said Akgün, who had also opposed an amendment to the match-fixing law reducing penalties for those found guilty of rigging.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, meanwhile, signaled he was not aware of the planned changes that Ergin mentioned, saying the minister’s remarks were carried only in a newspaper report and did not constitute an official statement. 

“We’ll see at the commission debate whether that’s true. The justice minister will be at the forefront of the debate and have a determining role,” Arınç said while defending the proposed amendment to the MİT Act and dismissing opposition objections that it was tailor-made for select individuals.

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