Turkish president approves law granting wide powers to spy agency

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Turkish President Abdullah Gul has approved a law that gives sweeping powers to the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), hours after Turkey’s top judge blasted the government for failing to comply with the rule of law.

The law, sponsored by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), was passed in the Parliament on April 16, ignoring dire warnings from opposition parties, rights groups and civil society organizations.

Gul earlier said he is closely following the draft law and acknowledged that such laws are contentious in nature. “I have shared my views [on the draft] with the [government] authorities,” Gul said.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said it would take the law to the Constitutional Court for annulment if it is passed.

The draft law contains 15 articles.

If approved, the MIT draft will authorize the intelligence agency to conduct operations against possible threats overseas. In addition, the organization will be authorized to wiretap phone conversations overseas upon order of the undersecretary or his aide. MIT will also have unfettered access to the archives and databases of every ministry and will be able to collect any data on citizens. What is more, the law requires private companies to hand over consumer data and technical equipment to MIT when requested.

The draft law also introduces severe penalties for obtaining and publishing MIT documents. If a person obtains, leaks or forges a confidential MIT document, he can face a prison sentence of between four and 10 years. If a person obtains and publishes a document related to MIT members, he faces between three and seven years imprisonment. If this publication makes its way into the print or visual media, the sentence will then be increased to up to 12 years. (CihanToday’s Zaman)