ANKARA, Turkey – As Turkey's controversial two-year-long state of emergency comes to an end, the government is set to introduce new anti-terrorism laws it says are needed to deal with continued security threats. The opposition insists the laws are just as oppressive as the emergency powers they will replace.
Turkey declared a three-month state of emergency days after a violent failed coup attempt in 2016, and has extended it seven times since then.
As part of a campaign promise before his victory in month's elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had pledged not to prolong the state of emergency when it expires at midnight Wednesday.
Instead, a parliamentary committee is on Thursday scheduled to debate government-proposed legislation that, among other things, would allow authorities to press ahead with mass dismissals of civil servants and hold some suspects in custody for up to 12 days. A vote in the general assembly could be held next week.
Under the state of emergency, Turkey has arrested more than 75,000 people for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara blames for the failed coup attempt.
Some 130,000 civil servants have been purged from government jobs for purported links to terror organizations.
Among them are judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, teachers and academics. Many have repeatedly declared their innocence. Gulen himself denies involvement in the coup attempt.
Critics have accused the government of misusing its emergency powers to erode democracy and arrest opponents, including lawmakers, journalists and political activists.
A U.N. report earlier this year said Turkey's state of emergency had led to human rights violations.
If approved, the new anti-terror laws would also allow governors to bar entry into certain regions for up to 15 days. Open-air demonstrations would be restricted to daylight hours.
"They are bringing to parliament new legislation that is aimed at making the state of emergency permanent," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party said of the anti-terror laws on Tuesday.
Turkey says the anti-terror measures are necessary because it is the target of several "terror" groups, including a network of Gulen supporters, Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State group.