Turkey's union membership hinges on a number of legal reforms and to this end parliament passed the criminal procedure bill over the weekend. It will come into effect on 1 April 2005. 

Of the laws Turkey is required to enact before the European Union's 17 December summit, only one now remains. That legislation, enabling a newly revised penal code to take effect from April, is expected to be passed by parliament in the coming days. 

The criminal procedure bill spells out court procedures and the duties of judges and lawyers. It also deals with such issues as police searches and the tapping of telephones. 

Suspects' rights

It stipulates that a suspect cannot be detained for more than 24 hours except for serious crimes, where prosecutors can order detention of up to three days. Suspects would have the right for a lawyer to be present during an interrogation. 

Witnesses would have the right to remain anonymous if revealing their identity would put their life at risk. 

Under the law, a new judicial police force would be established to handle interrogation of suspects. Turkey's centre-right government, which has a large parliamentary majority, has approved a number of political and legal reforms over the past two years in its drive to persuade the EU to launch accession talks.