Government decree gives Turkish security forces authority to open ‘suspicious’ letters

A recently issued government decree under the rule of emergency has given the Turkish security forces authority to open letters deemed “suspicious,” a significant change to the law on “seizure of mails,” according to a report by Hürriyet daily news on Wednesday.

Hurriyet daily news reported that according to the 696-numbered state of emergency decree issued on Sunday, letters and envelopes believed to be containing “suspicious” materials will now be able to be opened by security officials at prosecutors’ demands.

The Code of Criminal Procedure’s previous law allowed that mails “suspected of constituting evidence of a crime” and mails that “have to be within the reach of the courthouse during the investigations and cases” be seized with the approval of judges and prosecutors, who could later open them. The new decree, however, makes it possible for the security forces to also open letters and envelopes.

There are several limitations to the procedure, with the security forces being able to open letters in relation to certain criminal activities.

Authority to open letters were granted in incidents related to “possession of dangerous materials without permission or passing them on to other hands, crimes related to the production and trade of drugs or stimulants, the crimes included in 12th and 13th articles on firearms, knives and other objects, the crimes included in the 67th and 68th articles of the law on the protection of cultural and natural assets.”

Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared a rule of emergency after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and extended it for five times. The government has been issuing decrees that introduce significant regulations in a wide-range of areas.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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