Turkey's 4th judicial package passes into law with critical last-minute amendment

Turkey's 4th judicial package passes into law with critical last-minute amendment

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkeys 4th judicial package passes into law with critical last-minute amendment

Justice Minister Ergin shows pictures during the fourth judicial package debate. An amendment to the package will remove extra charges on terror crimes. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey's much-debated fourth judicial package was passed into law by Parliament April 11, with the introduction of a last-minute amendment to remove extra punishment for those convicted of "terror propaganda."

The package is intended to eliminate rulings against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for human rights violations, especially regarding the situation of convicts charged with membership in a terrorist organization.

The legal reform package was widely debated in Parliament and sparked controversy when it arrived in Parliament on March 7, as it did not meet the high expectations that had built up over time in its original state.

However, according to an amendment introduced to the fourth judicial package, no punishment will be inflicted for “being a member of a terrorist organization,” once the defendant is charged for committing propaganda crimes. 

Charges of affiliation with a terrorist organization will no longer be held once the crimes of publishing and distributing leaflets and statements by terrorist organizations, making the propaganda of a terrorist organization and participating in illegal meetings and protest marches have been penalized. 

The amendment to the Bill on Amending Some Laws within the Context of Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, known as the fourth judicial package, was introduced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) late on April 10 during debates on the package at Parliament’s General Assembly.

Yet, the amendment has reservations for cases where the crime qualifies as involving coercion and violence, such as possessing explosives, damaging property, injuring intentionally, resisting with the purpose of avoiding duty and jeopardizing general safety. When those crimes are involved, the person can still be charged for being a member of a terrorist organization. 

Crime gang penalty limited to armed gang

With another amendment introduced yesterday, the article on those who committed a crime in the name of a crime gang was limited to armed gangs. 

The amendments pave the way for the dropping of charges against suspects accused of being members of unarmed criminal gangs, including Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım, who is charged with rigging football matches, and municipal employees in İzmir and Eskişehir accused of embezzlement.
The fourth judicial reform package aims to eliminate rulings against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin previously said the fourth judicial package was not a result of “bargaining” in the ongoing talks to solve the Kurdish issues, adding that preliminary studies for the package began in November 2011 when the talks had not yet been launched. Turkey’s bid to join the European Union has continued for a long time.