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Turkey comes down hard on NGOs in ‘anti-terror’ bid

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of the interior of Turkey's parliament (Photo by Anadolu Agency)

Turkey’s parliament has approved a law drafted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party that enables deeply intrusive oversight of non-governmental organizations in the name of fighting “terrorism.”

On Sunday, the legislative body lent its approval to the measure that allows the Interior Ministry to ask courts to potentially halt the activities of those NGOs that face “terror-related” investigations. The Ministry can also replace the members of such organizations at will.

The parliament announced its ratification of the law that also applies to Turkey-based international bodies via Twitter.

The concept of terrorism has been thriving throughout Turkey since July 2016, when the state thwarted a coup attempt.

Ever since, the country has jailed thousands on charges of association with Fetullah Gulen, Erdogan’s US-based archfoe, whom the president accuses of masterminding the putsch.

Observers have, however, denounced, what they call the government’s self-willed application of terror charges against whoever it deems to be a dissident.

The grievance was underlined in a statement issued earlier this week by seven civil society organizations, including the UK-based Amnesty International and the India-headquartered International Human Rights Association.

“Given that thousands of civil society activists, journalists, politicians, members of professional organizations are investigated within the scope of [anti-terrorism law], there is no doubt that this law will target almost all opponent associations,” said the organizations.

Under the law, civil servants are required to inspect NGOs once a year, and fine those found in violation of the legislation up to 200,000 lira ($26,500.60). Opponents say the sheer increase in the amount of the penalty that formerly stood at just 700 liras would simply incapacitate many organizations to the point of closure.


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