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Turkish rule of law being replaced by intelligence state

A controversial bill on Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) that is currently being discussed in Parliament continues to draw harsh criticism from opposition parties and civil society organizations that fear that the bill, if passed as is, will turn Turkey into an intelligence state.

“Rule of law is being replaced by an intelligence state,” Ali Rıza Öztürk, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), has told Today's Zaman.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) submitted the MİT bill to Parliament to push through wide-ranging changes that give new powers to the intelligence organization, with critics saying that the bill would ensure legal cover for embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has found himself struggling with a corruption investigation that became public on Dec. 17, 2013.

“It is certain that Turkey will not become a more democratic country if the bill is passed,” Tunca Toskay, a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has told Today's Zaman.

The new bill, if passed by Parliament and signed into law by the president, will require prosecutors to inform MİT in the event of an investigation into claims of wrongdoing of MİT personnel. As part of the new regulations, the MİT undersecretary will be tried at the Supreme Court of Appeals instead of a high criminal court.

“The aim is not to strength the MİT or eliminate threats [against Turkey]. All they [AK Party] are after is to cover up corruption,” Faruk Bal, deputy head of the MHP has told Today's Zaman.

With the new bill, the publication of MİT documents will bring severe sentences, a move which aims to deter investigative journalists from using top-secret documents provided by whistleblowers about critical issues in their news reports.

Businesspeople have also criticized the bill, maintaining that the legislation may well cause foreign banks and investors to shy away from Turkey.

Fifty-one businesspeople, members of the İzmir-based Aegean Region Chamber of Industry (EBSO), said in a memorandum that the free-market economy would be submitted to monitoring and financial profiling by MİT if the bill goes into effect as is.

Enver Olgunsoy, a signatory to the memorandum and a member of the EBSO, said that companies would risk having their commercial secrets getting stolen by their rivals. He also believes such a law would lead to a loss of trust in foreign investors in the Turkish economy.