Turkish reform package in limbo

Turkey's developments on penal reform have been put on hold as its parliament goes into recess.

    The adultery clause has strong support in Erdogan's ruling AKP

    Turkish parliament went into recess on Saturday until 1 October, leaving a crucial penal code reform package in limbo and unlikely to be enacted upon before the release of a vital EU report.


    The EU Commission report is scheduled for 6 October, and will state whether or not to start membership talks with Turkey.


    The penal reform package froze in parliament because of an internal dispute on the legal status of adultery.


    Turkey's ruling party argued whether adultery was a crime, bringing Ankara and the EU to the brink of crisis on Friday, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telling the European body not to meddle in his country's domestic affairs.


    Sharp reactions from Turkey and the EU led the Justice and Development Party to drop the adultery clause as debate on the reform package began in Parliament on Tuesday.


    Effectively frozen


    EU's Verheugen (L) has signalled
    disapproval of the adultery law

    Parliament convened in an extraordinary session to push through the reform intended at overhauling the country's 78-year-old penal code and bringing it up to European standards.


    It was generally admired for granting greater individual freedoms and providing heavier penalties to rights abusers and torturers, despite being overshadowed by the adultery clause.


    But as deputies pushed the package through the House, voting 343 of the bill's 346 articles in two and a half days, parliamentary sources began reporting that Islamist hardliners within the ruling party were insistent the adultery clause be reinstated.


    The voting stopped three articles short of closure before the clauses on the law's application could be enacted, and the bill was effectively frozen.


    Erdogan's explanation on Friday was that it would be resubmitted to parliament when it officially opens on 1 October as part of a larger reform package, including two other related laws.


    'Wrong signal'


    As the first week of a parliamentary session is usually taken up by the election of the speaker and other officials, it appears highly unlikely that the code will be enacted before the crucial EU report is released.


    Whether the adultery clause will be introduced remains a mystery.


    "We have achieved
    and complied with everything concerning the Copenhagen
    political criteria and
    the Maastricht
    economic criteria"

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

    Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, said criminalising adultery would "certainly cast doubt on the direction of Turkey's reform efforts and would complicate Turkey's European prospects".


    "This would send the wrong signal ahead of the report. The outcome of this will be fully reflected in the report," he added.


    However, Erdogan said on Friday, "We have achieved and complied with everything concerning the Copenhagen political criteria and the Maastricht economic criteria.


    "But let us make one thing clear: We are Turkey, we are Turks."


    Verheugen will meet the Turkish ambassador to the EU to discuss concerns on political developments on Sunday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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