ISTANBUL: Turkey’s powerful interior minister was on Thursday accused of abusing his powers by the opposition and lawyers after saying police should “break the legs” of drug dealers.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, a favourite with the grass roots of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) for his tough approach to crime, made the remarks at an anti-drugs conference earlier this week.
“I don’t care how much they will condemn and criticise me, but a police officer who does not break the leg of a drug dealer when they see them cannot be considered to have fulfilled his duties,” Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkish media.
He went on to say he would personally assume full legal responsibility if Turkish police officers took such actions.
“Anyone who does what’s necessary against such people (drug dealers) — who take the lives of my country’s youth, who poison them and put their families into misery — can put the responsibility on me.”
Opposition MP for the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) Tur Yildiz Bicer, said she lodged a complaint against Soylu under a Turkish penal code article on abuse of power.
“The order, which constitutes an offence, cannot be fulfilled under any circumstances, whoever fulfils it cannot be free of responsibility,” she said, quoted by Turkish media.
She said under the penal code the person who publicly encourages the committing of such an offence can be punished with a jail sentence of up to five years.
Istanbul Bar Association chairman Mehmet Durakoglu said that Soylu’s comments flew in the face of the presumption of innocence which was key to the legal system.
“This (Soylu’s remark) is in quite a clear way criminal. I cannot accept that such words are said, even in irony,” Durakoglu said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.
“It’s not right that such things are going to make the fight against drugs more effective,” he added.
The spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, however backed the comments, describing them as an “expression of determination”.
Soylu, who was named interior minister in 2016, has risen to prominence by forcing an unrelenting fight against outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the southeast.
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