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Turkish president OKs bill on judiciary powers

Wednesday - 2/26/2014, 9:18am  ET

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to address his lawmakers in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Turkey's opposition party leaders on Tuesday asked Erdogan to resign and demanded an investigation into Erdogan for alleged corruption, a day after the disclosure of audio recordings purportedly of him ordering his son to dispose of vast amounts of cash amid a graft probe. Erdogan met with Turkey's intelligence chief shortly after voice recordings of two people — alleged to be Erdogan and his son Bilal Erdogan — circulated on the Internet.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

SUZAN FRASER
Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's president on Wednesday approved a controversial bill limiting the independence of the judiciary -- a law that is widely interpreted as a government response to corruption allegations brought by prosecutors that have recently implicated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The development comes days after alleged wiretapped conversations between Erdogan and his son discussing ways of disposing of vast amounts of cash from a residence, were leaked on the Internet. Erdogan says the recordings are fabricated. The Ankara chief prosecutor's office is investigating.

The legislation, which gives the Justice Ministry increased control over a council that appoints and oversees judges and prosecutors, is one in a series of contentious measures rushed through by the government as it attempts to limit fallout from a corruption and bribery scandal that has already forced Erdogan to dismiss four ministers.

On Wednesday, Parliament approved a watered-down version of a new Internet law that would give Turkey's telecommunications authority the power to shut down websites for privacy violations, although it would have to obtain court approval within 24 hours. The authority would also have to obtain a court order to access records of user activity.

Before the revision, the telecommunications authority could have forced Internet providers to hand over users' data without a court decision.

The government has already removed thousands of police officers, judges and prosecutors from their posts since the scandal erupted in December.

The latest development and the government's rapid response to the allegations have spawned protests. Some 1,000 opposition party supporters gathered in central Istanbul, scattering fake 100 euro bills into the air. The gesture was to mock Erdogan, who according to the unconfirmed audio recordings leaked on the internet, instructed his son to "reduce to zero" large amounts of money by distributing them to businessmen and other people apparently close to the family.

The Associated Press cannot verify the authenticity of the recordings.


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