ANKARA, Turkey, April 17 (UPI) -- Turkey's parliament voted Thursday to increase the powers of the National Intelligence Agency.
The controversial new law gives the MIT broader authorities to conduct eavesdropping and foreign operations, and grants immunity to senior operatives. It also sanctions prison terms as punishment for leaking classified information.
Critics claim the legislation is as attempt by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enhance his powers. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) wields significant influence in parliament and was able to push the legislation through after heated debate.
Opposition parties expressed concern that the empowered MIT would transform Turkey into a surveillance state. Rights group Freedom for Journalists Platform argued that Erdogan was attempting to privatize the intelligence agency for his own use.
The expanded spy powers comes as Erdogan and his power have been under investigation in a far-reaching corruption probe that began in December 2013.
Erdogan has denied involvement in the graft scandal and asserted that he and his party are the victims of the police department's and judiciary's "parallel state," and has accused them of orchestrating the probe.
The opposition parties said they would seek the repeal of the law from the Constitutional Court.
[Hurriyet Daily News]