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Turkish lawmakers approve bill increasing control over judiciary

Turkey's parliament on Saturday passed a law giving parliament more control over how judges are appointed. Amid protests over suspected government corruption and even violence inside parliament [Al Jazeera report] the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] pushed through the bill giving the Justice Ministry more control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) [official website]. The bill comes amid growing controversy that has forced high level officials, including members of Erdogan's cabinet, to resign [JURIST report]. It also stems from the arrests of the sons of the interior minister and two other cabinet members in relation to the corruption investigation. The controversy has sparked protests, which police have begun cracking down on in recent days. Since the graft scandal broke, the Turkish government has transferred or dismissed thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

Last week the Turkish parliament approved [JURIST report] legislation to heighten Internet restrictions, granting the country's telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without the court's approval. In December Erdogan named [JURIST report] ten new members of his cabinet following the resignation of three members under investigation for graft. The controversy has highlighted some of the issues surrounding Turkey's judicial system. Also in December a Turkish court rejected [JURIST report] bids to release two members of the parliament for the Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), Gulser Yildirim and Ibrahim Ayhan. Yildirim and Ayhan have been detained since 2010 when they were each charged with links to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [party website]. This decision came after Turkey's top court ruled [Turkish Weekly report] that the long-term detention of another member of parliament of the opposing party pending trial was in contradiction to the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey [text, PDF].

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