Turkey party mulls court response

Meeting held to discuss ways to tackle petition to shut down governing AK Party.

    AK Party's critics accuse it of trying to undermine
    the separation of state and religion [Reuters]
    The AK Party meeting in Ankara came on a day it submitted a proposal to parliament aimed at softening a law that curbs free speech.
     
    Proposed amendment
     
    The government has said the new article would have provisions that would stop nationalist prosecutors with their own political agenda from exploiting the law.
     
    Last month when Turkey's constitutional court said it would hear the case, the European Union warned it might affect Turkey's bid to join the bloc.
     

    The proposal makes the Turkish president responsible for approving any prosecution related to Article 301 of the penal code.

     

    That law makes denigrating Turkish identity or insulting the country's institutions punishable by up to three years in prison.

     

    Under the proposed amendment, denigrating Turkish identity is replaced with denigrating the "Turkish nation", an effort to eliminate the hard-to-define "Turkishness" now included in the law.

     

    It also decreases the maximum punishment to two years, meaning it can be suspended completely.

     

    'National interests'

     

    The AK Party proposal also requires presidential approval for prosecution under Article 305, which outlaws insults against "national interests".

     

    It was not clear whether the amendment, an important condition for Turkey's progress toward membership in the European Union, would satisfy critics.

     

    Some of these critics have urged Turkey to scrap the article entirely.

     

    It was also not clear when the proposal would be debated.

     

    Erdogan has been criticised lately for slowing progress on reforms required for Turkey's EU goal while focusing on lifting a ban on head scarves.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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