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Turkish president signs law allowing civilian courts to prosecute military personnel

[JURIST] Turkish President Abdullah Gul [official website, in Turkish] on Thursday approved a law that would allow the prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts and would prevent military prosecution of civilians during peacetime. Gul said that the law was necessary for accession [JURIST report] to the European Union (EU) [official website], but suggested [BBC report] that parliament amend the law to clarify the civil court's jurisdiction over service members. Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website] deputy chairman Onur Oymen [personal website] said that the law was "technically flawed and unconstitutional," and vowed to challenge [Hurriyet report] the law in the Constitutional Court. Former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk called the law unconstitutional and has questioned [Hurriyet report] the circumstances under which it was passed by parliament last month. Bekir Bozdag [official profile, in Turkish], an MP from Gul's Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, 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 necessary for Turkey's accession to the EU, since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. On Sunday, Turkish military officials sent a letter [JURIST report] to Gul urging him not to approve the law because it runs counter to Article 145 [text] of the Turkish Constitution, which outlines the responsibilities of the military justice system. 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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