Turkey: Parliament approves wider spy agency powers

18 April, 09:48

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, APRIL 18 - Turkey's Parliament yesterday approved a controversial law increasing the powers and immunities of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), a move seen by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's critics as a bid to tighten his grip on the state apparatus as he wages a bitter power struggle. As daily Hurriyet reports, the changes ratified by Parliament, which is dominated by Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), give the MIT more scope for eavesdropping and foreign operations, as well as greater immunity from prosecution for top agents. Parliament approved the bill amid a widespread corruption scandal hitting the government. Adopted after a heated debate, the legislation also makes the leaking of classified documents an offense worthy of a prison-term. Control of the NATO member's security apparatus is at the heart of a feud between Erdogan and Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally based in the United States whose network of followers wields influence in the police and judiciary. Erdogan accuses Gulen's network of orchestrating a plot to unseat him, tapping thousands of phones, including his own, over years and using leaked recordings to unleash corruption allegations against his inner circle in the run-up to a series of elections. Gulen denies involvement. Insisting the overhaul will make the agency more efficient and allow it to meet "new security and foreign policy needs," the government tried to convince its critics by the establishment of a parliamentary commission to oversee all intelligence organizations, but without giving the panel full authority to inspect the MIT. Opposition parties say the bill grants the agency far-reaching powers and will turn Turkey into a surveillance state. Rights groups and civil society organizations have also criticized the bill. The opposition vowed to seek the bill's cancellation at the Constitutional Court. (ANSAmed).

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