Parliament takes up bill against terror financing

Parliament takes up bill against terror financing

Parliament takes up bill against terror financing

The draft will be taken up on Nov. 23 at Internal Affairs Commission, but it is not clear when it will reach the General Assembly. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Debates on a long-delayed bill on the prevention of the financing of terrorism will begin this week in Parliament amid pressure from the United States and international bodies on Ankara to enact the measures.

The draft will be taken up on Nov. 23 at Parliament’s Internal Affairs Commission, but it was not immediately clear when it would reach the General Assembly.

Government officials have said they aim to pass the bill through Parliament by the year-end. However, other priority issues like the 2012 budget, amendments in the urban transformation law after last month’s earthquake in Van and a planned bill on paid military service are also pending.

U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone had asked Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek in July to give priority to the bill, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had signed in February but could not be passed in the last legislative year. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has described Turkey as a “high-risk jurisdiction” in terms of implementing global standards in fighting money laundering and terror financing.

Some opposition lawmakers however have raised concern over the scope of the bill, arguing that it will grant the authorities excessive powers that could result in the violation of basic human rights. A provision that would open the door for the freezing of assets without a court ruling has come under particular criticism on grounds that the government might attempt to use it as a means of bullying political opponents at home.

The draft envisages jail terms of five to 10 years for those funding terrorist organizations or terrorists, even if the money is not directly used for a terrorist crime. Individuals, companies or organizations listed by the United Nations would have their funds frozen immediately after a related decision is printed in the Official Gazette.

The Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) would be in charge of executing the freezing of funds. Individuals with frozen funds would be required to seek MASAK’s approval before accessing real estate, movable property, company shares and safe-deposit boxes. Those who violate the rules would be sentenced to jail terms of six months to two years, or heavy fines.

If a foreign country requests the freezing of the funds of an individual, Turkish or foreign, an Assessment Commission will make the final decision based on the principle of reciprocity between the two countries.