Democratization package draft law allows imprisonment of protesters impeding public services

“It is understood that Erdoğan is keeping his promises to the PKK, Öcalan and Barzani,” he added.

7 December 2013 /BÜŞRA ÖZERLİ, Zaman – Protesters can be sentenced anywhere from two to five years in prison if they are found guilty of illegally disrupting public services, says a draft law made to expand fundamental rights and freedoms and including 17 articles that were introduced in a democratization reform package by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sept. 30.

The passing of article could mean that protesters from the Gezi Park, hydroelectric power plant (HES) and Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) demonstrations will be subject to imprisonment.

The Gezi protests were staged to prevent a redevelopment project that would replace Gezi Park in İstanbul’s Taksim with a replica of Ottoman barracks and a shopping mall. Hydroelectric power plants, or “HES facilities” as they are called by Turkish environmentalists, are popping up across Anatolia to harness the power of water to create much-needed energy and have also been protested. Students of ODTÜ staged demonstrations against a highway that was to be built through their university’s campus.

The draft law includes articles about the right of assembly. Accordingly, mass meetings and demonstrations held outdoors must end before sunset while meetings held in enclosed areas should finish by midnight.

The images and voices of participants and speakers at mass meetings and demonstrations can be recorded by security officers, though the video and voice recordings cannot be used for purposes other than determining if a crime occurred or locating a crime suspect. The organizers of such meetings should end the meeting if they see that the meeting is getting out of hand, and they should immediately inform security officers about any illegal activities.

One of the articles stipulates that the places where demonstrations can take place will be determined by senior local authorities. The local representatives of political parties who have groups in Parliament and representatives of the three unions with the highest number of members can contribute to the decision.

Another article in the draft law lifts the ban on party membership of citizens who have been found guilty of participating in terrorist activities. It also alters an article of Turkey’s law on political parties, easing membership restrictions on citizens found guilty of crimes including embezzlement, theft, fraud, forgery and corruption.

There are also claims that imprisoned terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan will be allowed to join a political party if the draft passes.

Commenting on the possibility that Öcalan may have the right to have party membership and speculations that he may be released, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Yusuf Halaçoğlu said it is not acceptable to release the killers of 40,000 people and that this has nothing to do with democracy or politics.

Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Hüseyin Çelik has denied these claims.

In a statement on Friday, Çelik rejected allegations that Öcalan will now have the right to join a political party. “Erdoğan made it clear on Sept. 30 that there is no such statement in the draft,” he said.

One of the articles in the draft also says those who intervene in how others choose to express their beliefs and views will be subject to imprisonment of up to three years.

Another article says that those who ban workers from fulfilling religious obligations could be sentenced to three years in prison.The draft law also includes an article stating those who prevent someone’s right to education, including a ban on headscarves at universities, will serve two to five years in jail.

Another article says there would be a two- to five-year sentence given to someone if they were to ban one’s right to benefit from services provided at public institutions.

‘Erdoğan keeps his promises to PKK, Öcalan and Barzani’

Criticizing some articles related to the Kurdish issue listed in the draft law, MHP Deputy Chairman Şefkat Çetin said the government has revealed its relations with the PKK’s affiliates. He said that the AK Party grants Kurdish people the right to an education and to deliver election speeches in the Kurdish language, and that it is seemingly accepting changes in village names — all in line with PKK demands.

“It is understood that Erdoğan is keeping his promises to the PKK, Öcalan and Barzani,” he added.

Çetin also urged AK Party deputies not to approve all drafts brought to them and to consider Turkey’s national unity.