December 16, 2014 / 1:17 PM / in 3 years

Turkey's main opposition to challenge new police powers in top court

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s main opposition party said on Tuesday will launch a legal challenge against a government-sponsored law expanding police search powers, saying it violates the rights of individuals.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the opening of an extension to an oil refinery near Istanbul December 15, 2014. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

A spokesman for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s leading secularist opposition, told reporters the legislation treats all Turks as suspects.

The Turkish government earlier this month pushed through legislation lowering the threshold of evidence required for police searches of people or premises to “reasonable suspicion”, sparking renewed fears over President Tayyip Erodgan’s tightening grip on power.

“We will be taking to the constitutional court this legislation, which makes everyone in society a reasonable suspect and puts them in a weak position in front of the judge and prosecutor,” CHP spokesman Akif Hamzacebi told reporters.

“This is a very dangerous regulation. As long as this authority is there, anyone can be the subject of an investigation on the grounds that they have committed a crime against the constitutional order,” Hamzacebi said.

The new law came into force last Friday. It apparently was put to use this weekend, when police raided media organizations linked to Erdogan’s ally turned foe, the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The raids operations have sparked fresh alarm amongst Ankara’s western allies, already concerned about the hollowing out of rule-of-law in the predominantly Muslim NATO member country.

The government has said the changes were made to ease police investigations after violent protests within Turkey’s Kurdish community in October left scores dead.

The bill also sees two top courts -- the Court of Appeals and the Council of State -- restructured, and curbs the power of the top appeals court.

The legislation is being seen as part of Erdogan’s battle against Gulen, whose supporters have historically been influential within the police and judiciary.

Erdogan said on Monday that the judiciary was not yet “cleansed” of Gulen’s supporters, despite hundreds of judges and prosecutors being removed from their posts in the last year.

The president accuses Gulen of engineering a graft probe against the government in an attempt to undermine and topple him, a charge the cleric denies.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker, Writing by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by Jonny Hogg/Jeremy Gaunt

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