Turkish MPs Brawl over Bill Seeking to Boost Police Powers

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Published Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Updated at 3:13 pm The Turkish parliament descended into chaos when a furious brawl erupted as the country's ruling party sought to push through a controversial bill boosting the powers of police in protests.

Some lawmakers brandished ceremonial gavels as they chased their counterparts from other parties, in the sometimes farcical late-night fracas overnight Tuesday to Wednesday that left five deputies injured.

Others hurled glasses at their fellow lawmakers, eyewitness Melda Onur, a female MP from the opposition CHP party, told the Hurriyet newspaper.

One image posted on the Internet showed another lawmaker surrounded by plants having fallen into an ornamental flowerbed during the fracas.

Five opposition lawmakers were injured in the scuffles, with two suffering head injuries inflicted by the ceremonial gavel normally used by the speaker, the Dogan news agency said.

Four of the five required hospital treatment for their injuries and the session, which had gone on until after midnight, was finally adjourned until Wednesday afternoon.

The melee erupted during a closed session in the parliament after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers attempted to block the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MPs from walking to the rostrum to give speeches.

'First time I see this'

Ertugrul Kurkcu, opposition MP, said he was wounded on the head while he was trying to thwart a punch directed at Sebahat Tuncel, female deputy from the HDP.

The troubles started when deputy parliament speaker from the ruling party gave the floor to a fellow AKP lawmaker instead of an opposition MP, he said.

"AKP deputies were in intensive efforts to bring the homeland security bill to parliament before midnight," he said.

"I was stuck in the middle to prevent a punch aimed at Mrs Sebahat (Tuncel). I was wounded on the head. AKP (lawmakers) attacked with whatever they have in their hands. They attacked with parliament speaker's gavel and parliament bell and hit us with iron chairs," he said.

"I saw the bell hit the head of the opposition lawmakers. There were always scuffles in the parliament but I have seen this for the first time."

AKP's Mustafa Elitas claimed that he was "harassed" by the HDP's two women lawmakers including Tuncel and Pervin Buldan when he took the floor to deliver a speech.

"They tried to drive me away from the rostrum," he said, accusing the two of pretending to be hurt.

"The two women lawmakers battered themselves. They played their role very well."

Ironically, only hours before the fighting, many lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament took the floor to condemn violence against women, after the murder and attempted rape of a 20-year-old female student by a bus driver in southern Turkey, sparking an outpouring of public anger.

CHP lawmaker Muslim Sari said in a Twitter message that his fellow colleagues Moussa Cam, Aykut Erdogdu and Refik Eryilmaz were injured "as a result of AKP attacks."

He said: "They are currently in good state. Moussa Cam is at hospital," and added, "We will keep on our struggle against fascism."

Kurkcu said the opposition was more motivated now to block the protest bill, which appears set to be one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in Turkey in recent years.

The opposition fears the bill, introduced by the AKP, will effectively create a police state under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lawmakers had earlier used a variety of delaying tactics to thwart the debate on the bill.

The so-called "homeland security reform" bill was submitted to parliament by the AKP government after deadly pro-Kurdish protests in October.

"We consider it a law that facilitates a switch to an authoritarian state," Aykan Erdemir, a lawmaker for the CHP, told AFP.

"Opposition parties will do their best to slow it down and stop it from coming to the parliament floor," he said, adding that parliament was scheduled to work flat out, including weekends, in order to pass the legislation.

The bill broadens police powers to carry out searches during protests and gives police the powers to detain people for up to 48 hours without the authorisation of a prosecutor.

It also permits police to use firearms to prevent an attack in a public place against people using Molotov cocktails or similar weapons.

It gives provincial governors the authority to instruct police to pursue suspects, without needing to go through the judiciary.

Erdogan said Tuesday the bill should have been legislated much earlier.

"The homeland security law must rapidly pass right now and be put into practice as soon as possible."

The president also warned protesters that they had no chance of changing the country's course under his leadership.

"I want to appeal to those who... think they can change the country's direction through a couple of street protests, Molotovs: you will not succeed. You are working in vain. This train will not go off the track," he said.

In a note to lawmakers, the AKP stood behind the legislation and said it was compatible with the EU laws, describing it as a "package protecting freedoms.”

It argued that in countries such as Austria, Italy, Germany and Britain security forces are granted the right to search people and vehicles without prior authorization.

But Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter: "Turkey can't hide behind EU laws to justify its sorry record of police abuse and detention of non-violent protesters."

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

Indeed it's a great country where the womenfolk 'batter themselves' to prevent damage to the knuckles of their brave macho MPs.

Well done, Turkey, never surrender from providing such wonderful entertainment!

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