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Turkey’s ruling party seeks to grant ‘neighborhood watchmen’ detention powers

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Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has drafted a bill that allows “neighborhood watchmen” (bekçi in Turkish) to carry out ID checks and take people into custody, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Wednesday.

The proposal came after a court recently ruled that it was unlawful for the neighborhood watchmen to ask people for identification.

Consisting of 18 articles, the bill allows watchmen to work with the gendarmerie, which serves as local law enforcement in Turkey’s rural areas.

The proposal also includes provisions concerning intervention in criminal incidents as well as collecting evidence.

The neighborhood watchman system, which was eliminated in 1990, was reintroduced by the AKP government at the instruction of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2017.

An initial 7,000 were employed that year, followed by 10,000 additional positions created at the end of 2018.

Government critics have argued that the move is a way for Erdoğan to establish his own paramilitary organization.

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