AKP establishing parallel police organisation, says Turkey’s main opposition
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has objected to a new bill aiming to expand the powers of watchmen, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of establishing a parallel police organisation, Duvar news site reported.
The Turkish parliament’s internal affairs commission started reviewing AKP’s draft law on watchmen on Wednesday and has so far approved nine of the 18 articles in the bill.
The draft law allows the police and gendarmerie forces to recruit watchmen to assist law enforcement work, giving the watchmen the authority to carry guns and conduct identity checks as well as stop-and-search powers.
The watchmen will be required to report places they suspect being used for drug trade, gambling and prostitution to the local law enforcement agencies.
The watchmen, who will patrol neighbourhoods and markets, will be required to pass a test prepared by the Interior Ministry in order to be eligible for the job.
Ali Öztunç, a member of the parliament from the CHP, said his party did not oppose the whole bill, but only some articles, particularly those transferring police powers to the watchmen.
“The bill gives the watchmen power to conduct ‘physical search’ and ‘pat-down’. Is a watchman going to pat-down a female student when he sees her at night?” the lawmaker asked.
“They are establishing a parallel police organisation,” Öztunç said.
The Progressive Lawyers Association also accused the ruling party of attempting to establish its own military.
“If you give comprehensive powers to people who have not received professional training, who are incompetent, you cannot get results. This situation will from time to time pit watchmen and citizens against each other,” Murat Yılmaz, the head of the association’s Ankara branch said.