Parliament ratifies bill on terrorism financing

February 07, 2013, Thursday/ 23:11:00

The Turkish Parliament ratified a law on the Prevention of the Financing of Terrorism late on Thursday amid quarrels and a heated debate in the final session as opposition parties are against the law, stating that it would give the government the right to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected of financing a terrorist group, without any due process.

The government stepped up its efforts in late January and brought the draft bill to a parliamentary commission, where it was adopted.

According to the new law targeting terrorism financing, anyone convicted of financially sponsoring terrorism will face a 10-year sentence.

The law regulates norms on how to freeze property and introduces sentences as part of an efficient battle against the financing of terrorism in line with the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Due to the newly passed law, those who financially support terrorist networks or collect money on behalf of terrorist organizations will face a sentence from five to 10 years in prison.

It is not necessary that a fund formed to support a terrorist network be used for an illegal activity in order for those involved to face time in prison.

With the publication of the law in the Official Gazette, Turkey will undertake any and all measures to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities that were defined in a number of UN Security Council resolutions, namely Resolution 1267, Resolution 1988 and Resolution 1989.

The government has been under pressure for some time now from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a unit of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to approve this bill in Parliament. The FATF has repeatedly warned that as a member of the FATF group, Turkey had failed to make sufficient progress in implementing its promised action plan to harmonize Turkish laws. In the plenary meeting held in Paris on Oct. 17-19 under the Norwegian presidency, the FATF decided to suspend Turkish membership as of Feb. 22, 2013, unless Turkey adopted this draft and established a mechanism for identifying and freezing terrorist assets in line with earlier FATF recommendations.

Towards the end of January, the government rushed the bill that had been sitting on Parliament's agenda for too long with no action having been taken on it to the relevant commission so that it could be voted through before the FATF suspension deadline. The original bill was submitted to Parliament in February 2011 but was dropped from the agenda when Parliament did not have the time to examine it before the national elections on June 12, 2011. The government re-sent the bill to Parliament in the new legislative session on Oct. 21, 2011.

The bill authorizes the Finance Ministry's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) to freeze the assets of those involved in financing terrorism, whether domestically or internationally, without having to obtain a judge's ruling first.