Gul fails democracy test by approving controversial MIT law

ANKARA (CIHAN)- President Abdullah Gul is likely to suffer a loss of prestige in the eyes of the public, as his declared respect for the rule of law and personal rights and freedoms were weakened when he swiftly approved a much-contested law on the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

The president approved the law on April 25, three days after the law was referred to him for his approval following its adoption in Parliament. The law was published in the Official Gazette on Saturday and immediately entered into force.

omments emerged in the Turkish press on Sunday saying that Gul approved the MIT law in order not to upset Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and that he dealt a fatal blow to a “belief that he serves as an independent and impartial power in politics.”

The MIT law has been harshly criticized for giving sweeping powers to MIT, and many say it will turn Turkey into an “intelligence state.”

After approving the law, Gul said he had the AK Party government make a few changes to it but acknowledged that there may still be contentious points. “If there are objections, it is clear to which institution to take the law,” he stated, implying that critics may take the law to the Constitutional Court for annulment.

The law allows MIT to conduct operations against possible overseas threats as designated by the Cabinet. MIT will not be accountable for such operations all responsibility will lie with the civilian government. Also, MIT agents operating under an assumed identity will not be accountable for their activities and MIT agents who infiltrate terrorist organizations will have no criminal liability for crimes committed while undercover.

The law also authorizes MIT to conduct wiretaps without a court order. MIT will be authorized to wiretap phone conversations overseas on the orders of the undersecretary, who heads the agency, or his aide.

Gul earlier said he was closely following the law and acknowledged that such laws are contentious in nature.

On Saturday, Republican People’s Party (CHP)hairman Kemal KIlIçdaroIlu said Turkey has been turned into an intelligence state with the MIT law. According to KIlIçdaroIlu, people are facing a totalitarian regime in Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and his government are to blame. “We are putting up a fight for justice and democracy against tyrants, a fight against dictators,” KIlIçdaroIlu added.

The law was passed in Parliament on April 18 in spite of dire warnings from opposition parties, rights groups and civil society organizations. It contains 15 articles.

MIT will have unfettered access to the archives and databases of every government ministry and will be able to collect enormous amounts of data on citizens. What’s more, the law requires private companies to hand over consumer data and technical equipment upon the agency’s request.

ourts and prosecutors will be able to request from MIT only documents related to state secrets and espionage. They will not be able to request any other documents from the intelligence organization.

ritics of the bill say it will make it easier for MIT to profile citizens.

HP deputy Özgur Özel said President Abdullah Gul accompanied a blow dealt to democracy in Turkey by Prime Minister ErdoIan and his government by approving the MIT law.

According to the deputy, the law leaves Parliament ineffective, damages the separation of power and reinstates the prime minister’s dominance over the executive, legislative and judiciary powers. “This law dealt a huge blow to democracy in the country,” he stated. Özel also said MIT has turned into a Gladio-type organization, or a deep state, with the new law.

In addition, the CHP deputy said he was not surprised to see that the president swiftly approved the MIT law, as he had previously approved other controversial laws with equal speed.

Gul recently drew a huge reaction after he hastily signed a controversial law on Internet restrictions, as well as a law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) that strengthened the government’s control over the judiciary and a law that paved the way for the closure of private prep schools.

“President Gul once differentiated himself from the prime minister, thanks to his pro-freedom position, but he has recently undertaken the mission of a public notary who approves all the laws referred to him by the ruling party,” Özel added.

The CHP had said it would appeal to the Constitutional Court and seek the annulment of the MIT law if the president approved it. It was not immediately clear when the main opposition party plans to take the law to the top court.

The MIT law also introduces severe penalties for obtaining and publishing MIT documents. Anyone caught obtaining, leaking or forging a confidential MIT document faces a prison sentence of between four and 10 years. If a person obtains and publishes a document concerning MIT officials, he faces between three and seven years in prison. If such documents make their way into print or visual media, the maximum sentence is 12 years.

In addition, the law provides retroactive legal grounds for the Oslo talks, a series of meetings held secretly between senior operatives of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and MIT officials in Oslo in 2010 in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the country’s Kurdish problem.

The talks drew the ire of opposition parties in Turkey, who accused the AK Party of contributing to terrorism. The opposition argued that the “peace talks” were a form of bargaining with the terrorist group.

Terrorism expert Emre Uslu, who is also a columnist and writer, ironically said Gul’s approval of the MIT law is a “wonderful finale for Gul’s record on democracy.”

Journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan said people had been expecting the AK Party government to bring aanced democracy to the country, but what has come out of the “box” is an intelligence state.

HP Deputy Chairman Gursel Tekin also cautioned that the MIT law may lead to the emergence of extrajudicial killings and unsolved murders.

“It is not a new thing that people will be profiled by MIT or that the country will turn into an intelligence state under this law. We have already been profiled illegally for many years. Let me tell you what is more worrisome about the MIT law. Many people may be killed and their perpetrators may go uncaptured because of this law. The law allows MIT officials to go unpunished for unlawful activities,” Tekin told the media on Sunday. (CihanToday’s Zaman)