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Erdogan Decree Stirs Fears of Legalized Extrajudicial Violence in Turkey
By Onur Ant

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest emergency decree risks inciting political violence by giving legal cover to pro-government vigilantes, opposition parties and legal authorities warn.

The order, declared in the Official Gazette on Sunday, grants sweeping immunity for acting against terrorism or attempts to overthrow the government. Civilians won't face legal consequences for actions against last year's coup attempt or, more importantly, anything that could be considered its "continuation," the decree said.

Erdogan and his allies regularly accuse political opponents of furthering the agenda of coup plotters, raising concern and fear about how broadly the decree will be interpreted. Opposition parties led by the Republican People's Party, or CHP, said the measure provides immunity not just to those who fought back a failed coup attempt by a faction of the military on July 15, 2016, but to supporters of the government intent on stifling political dissent.

"They've paved the way for anyone who claims to be fighting against terrorism to slaughter everybody else," Ozgur Ozel, a CHP parliament whip, said in televised remarks in the western province of Manisa. "They will unleash vigilantes on us in a future democratic rally and will face no charges."

Ozel's comments were echoed across Turkey's normally fractured opposition spectrum. Meral Aksener, a former interior minister who leads the newly established Iyi Party, said in a Twitter post that the decree risks dragging Turkey into a civil war by allowing civilians to use weapons on the pretext of suppressing rebellion. It also legitimizes use of paramilitary forces, according to Ziya Pir, a lawmaker with the pro-Kurdish party HDP.

Even Abdullah Gul, a former president who co-founded the AKP with Erdogan, warned of "events that could upset us all" and called for the law to be revised. Its wording is "inappropriate for legal language and is worrying from the perspective of rule of law," he said on Twitter, in an unusual criticism of his successor's policies.

More than 200 people including civilians were killed on the night of the coup attempt. There have also been widespread accusations of violence against rank-and-file soldiers who were following their commanders' orders.

The decree was vaguely worded in terms of its timeframe and its targets. A party spokesperson, Mahir Unal, said it applied only to events that took place on July 15-16, 2016, but that timeline isn't spelled out in the order.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest emergency decree risks inciting political violence by giving legal cover to pro-government vigilantes, opposition parties and legal authorities warn.

The order, declared in the Official Gazette on Sunday, grants sweeping immunity for acting against terrorism or attempts to overthrow the government. Civilians won't face legal consequences for actions against last year's coup attempt or, more importantly, anything that could be considered its "continuation," the decree said.

Erdogan and his allies regularly accuse political opponents of furthering the agenda of coup plotters, raising concern and fear about how broadly the decree will be interpreted. Opposition parties led by the Republican People's Party, or CHP, said the measure provides immunity not just to those who fought back a failed coup attempt by a faction of the military on July 15, 2016, but to supporters of the government intent on stifling political dissent.

"They've paved the way for anyone who claims to be fighting against terrorism to slaughter everybody else," Ozgur Ozel, a CHP parliament whip, said in televised remarks in the western province of Manisa. "They will unleash vigilantes on us in a future democratic rally and will face no charges."

Ozel's comments were echoed across Turkey's normally fractured opposition spectrum. Meral Aksener, a former interior minister who leads the newly established Iyi Party, said in a Twitter post that the decree risks dragging Turkey into a civil war by allowing civilians to use weapons on the pretext of suppressing rebellion. It also legitimizes use of paramilitary forces, according to Ziya Pir, a lawmaker with the pro-Kurdish party HDP.

Even Abdullah Gul, a former president who co-founded the AKP with Erdogan, warned of "events that could upset us all" and called for the law to be revised. Its wording is "inappropriate for legal language and is worrying from the perspective of rule of law," he said on Twitter, in an unusual criticism of his successor's policies.

More than 200 people including civilians were killed on the night of the coup attempt. There have also been widespread accusations of violence against rank-and-file soldiers who were following their commanders' orders.

The decree was vaguely worded in terms of its timeframe and its targets. A party spokesperson, Mahir Unal, said it applied only to events that took place on July 15-16, 2016, but that timeline isn't spelled out in the order.


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