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Turkish lawmakers pass bill increasing control over judiciary

Turkey's parliament on Saturday passed a law granting itself greater control with respect to the judicial appointment process. Amid protests over suspected government corruption and violence inside parliament [Al Jazeera report] the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] pushed the bill though parliament, thereby granting the Justice Ministry greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) [official website]. The law comes amid growing controversy that has forced high-level officials, including members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's cabinet, to resign [JURIST report]. The law 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, to which police have responded with force. Since the graft scandal broke, the Turkish government has transferred or dismissed thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

In February 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] 10 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.

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