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Turkish military opposes civilian court plan

[JURIST] Turkish military officials on Sunday sent President Abdullah Gul [official website, in Turkish] a letter urging him not to approve a law that would allow prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts during peacetime. Members of the General Staff [official website, in Turkish] said that the law runs counter [Hurriyet report] to Article 145 [text] of the Turkish Constitution, which outlines the responsibilities of the military justice system. Gul's Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] supported the measure in parliament, which passed the law as part of reforms necessary for accession [JURIST report] to the European Union (EU) [official website]. Former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said that the law was unconstitutional and questioned the circumstances under which it was passed by parliament last month. AKP Deputy Bekir Bozdag [official profile, in Turkish] said that the law is constitutional [Cumhuriyet report, in Turkish] and serves to protect the political sphere from military influence, not inject politics into military affairs.

Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the EU since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. In May, secular judges in Turkey warned [JURIST report] the ruling AKP that proposed constitutional amendments were going too far in promoting an Islamist agenda. Earlier this year, a report [text, PDF, in Turkish] by advocacy group Tesev [advocacy website] argued that Turkish property rights still fell short [JURIST report] of those required to join the EU. Last year, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] addressed the Turkish parliament [JURIST report] to applaud the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST report] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.

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