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Clashes in Istanbul on June 15, 2013
Clashes in Istanbul on June 15, 2013
Nuray Babacan

ISTANBUL — Last month the Turkish government unveiled its so-called democratization package, which included everything from a lifting of a headscarf ban to new multilingual education and reform of the national electoral law.

Now comes another legislative push, but this time it would include a series of measures to increase the authority of the police over citizens. The most critical feature of the package being introduced to Parliament is that it would allow authorities to enforce preventive detentions from 12 to 24 hours. This practice will no longer require an order from a judge or a prosecutor as it did before, and will allow police to directly detain whoever they deem likely to stage an illegal protest or otherwise cause trouble.

There were talks of increasing the authority of the police, following the protests earlier this year against a proposed construction project in Istanbul's Gezi Park. But this has since been expanded into a major series of legislation regarding law enforcement. The “Law Enforcement Inspection Board” which was formerly slated to be included in the democratization package is included in this one instead, with the Turkish Ministries of Interior and Justice now cooperating on the project.

The new bill stipulates that organizations that are considered likely to stage protests and cause trouble are to be duly followed by law enforcement agencies. If police verify such actions are being planned, they can autonomously choose to detain members of these organizations for 12 to 24 hours; a court order can extend this period.

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Police action during Gezi Park protests — Photo: Mstyslav Chernov

The current practice for preventive detention requires a prosecutor or judge to issue an order, which has been used against Kurds before Newroz celebrations, as well as on May 1 rallies and soccer matches, already sparking protests from civil liberty groups.

Other measures proposed in the bill include:

Harsher punishments
The new package will also increase penalties for resisting police and damaging public property. Articles 152 and 265 of the Turkish Penal Code are to be rewritten for that purpose. Increasing punishments for using violence against or threatening civil servants is also in the plans.

Molotov Cocktails
According to the draft, the Molotov cocktail is to be defined as “handmade tool of offense or defense formed by inflammable or combustible material,” and anyone who stocks or carries one will face prison sentences from three to five years. If the Molotov is to be used by a criminal organization, the penalties will be able to be increased by half.

Repeat offenders
Another increase of penalty is planned for covering one's face during protests and similar events. According to Turkish laws, the police do not arrest people: Suspects are detained and the courts issues the order for their arrest. Since arrest is not used for offenses that lead to prison charges of less than two years, the package will include a reform for allowing the court to arrest the suspect in case they repeat the violation that would not require arrest otherwise.

Internal affairs
A “Law Enforcement Inspection Board” is expected to be part of the draft of the package. The reform would allow for the inspection of law enforcement into alleged violations of human rights. NGOs have demanded that the board charged with investigating police behavior should be formed by civilian and neutral members. It is said that the government is considering this board to counter any criticisms of a “police state” that this new legislation may provoke.

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

Boarding a plane in Camaguey, Cuba

Santiago Villa

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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