Parties divided over terror financing bill
Terror financing bill aims to cut funding to terrorist organisations, but the opposition is concerned it could be misused to muzzle opposition to the government.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 20/12/11
In an effort to stem terrorism financing, the Turkish government has asked lawmakers to pass a long-delayed bill by the end of the year that would impose harsh penalties on individuals, organisations and companies financing terrorist activities.
The new Justice and Development Party (AKP) drafted bill, however, has drawn criticism from the political opposition out of concern the law could supplement the much criticised Anti-Terror Law and be manipulated by the government to silence the opposition.
The bill envisages stronger enforcement and stricter regulations, such as freezing the bank accounts of those accused of funding terrorist organisations by the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), without waiting for a lengthy court process, even if the money is not directly used for acts of terrorism.
Individuals, companies or organisations listed by the UN as terrorists will also have their funds frozen immediately after the decision is officially announced.
The Parliamentary Commission on Internal Affairs passed the bill last week and sent it to the Justice Commission for approval before being voted upon in parliament.
As the bill gets ready to hit the floor of parliament, opposition lawmakers wary of the bill are arguing that granting the authorities excessive powers by excluding the role of the judge "could result in the violation of basic human rights".
"This is [a] very dangerous [bill]," says opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) MP Dilek Akagun Yilmaz, who is a member of the Justice Commission.
"Freedom is clearly under threat in this bill. Our concern is that ordinary people might be detained," she told SES Türkiye, adding that a special sub-committee for the terror financing bill would be established to discuss the bill, which could last until mid-January.
Yilmaz emphasised a number of opposition figures and writers have been arrested over the past few years within the scope of the notorious and broad-sweeping Anti-Terror Law.
"This is our real fear. There is no guarantee that the AKP government will not attempt to use the new financial regulations as a mean of bullying political opponents at home," she said.
For MP Sirri Sakik of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, the new terror financing bill is a "harbinger of possible major financial operations against the Kurdish municipalities".
"The main problem here is the Kurdish issue. This bill will make things that are already problematic even worse," he told SES Türkiye, adding that while Western allies support the financing bill to target Islamic terrorism, the AKP wants to use it against the Kurds.
The bill also envisages jail sentences of five to ten years for those convicted of funding terrorist organizations or terrorists. Sakik says that "by these types of regulations the AKP intends to cover-up the previous Kurdish arrests [KCK], as well".
In the face of this criticism, AKP officials underscore that their only goal in combating terrorism financing is to protect citizens and reduce the harm caused by crime and terrorism.
"This bill is not about one particular organisation or individual. This is about terror which threatens all countries and does not recognise any border," the AKP's Yilmaz Tunc, spokesman for parliament's Justice Commission, told SES Türkiye.
According to Tunc, the government worked closely with international partners during the bill-drafting process to make sure that "it meets all global standards". "But, of course, the opposition is always welcome to share its point of view [with us]," he said.
As a NATO member and a country that has long struggled with terrorism, terror and security analyst Aytekin Geleri at the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) says that Turkey should speed up actions to control terrorism financing.
"We’re even a little bit late on that," he said.
However, Geleri underlines that the bill should meet the opposition's concerns and answer simple questions, such as who will be targeted by this law, how the Financial Crimes Investigation Board will determine who's a terrorist, and establish a complaint mechanism for the board's decisions.