Turkish parliament passes associations oversight law that critics say will stifle NGOs

ANKARA (Reuters) - The Turkish parliament passed a law on Sunday that aims to increase oversight of foundations and associations and, according to rights groups like Amnesty International, restrict the freedoms of civil society organizations.
The law allows the Home Secretary to replace members of organizations charged with terrorism, while the Home Office can also petition the courts to suspend the groups' activities under the new law. International organizations are also included in the law and punished accordingly.
Parliament approved the bill - drafted by President Tayyip Erdogan's AK party, which has a parliamentary majority with its nationalist MHP allies - early on Sunday, the assembly said on Twitter.
Earlier this week, seven civil society organizations, including the Human Rights Association and Amnesty, said in a statement that the terrorism charges in Turkey were arbitrary. The law violates the presumption of innocence and punishes those whose legal proceedings have not yet been completed.
"Given that thousands of civil society activists, journalists, politicians and members of professional organizations are being investigated under the (Anti-Terror Law), there is no doubt that this law will target almost all opposing organizations," the organizations said.
After a failed coup in 2016, investigations into terrorism allegations were launched against hundreds of thousands of people. Amnesty members and other civil society groups have been investigated and brought to justice, and hundreds of foundations have also been closed by decree.
Critics say Erdogan's government used the coup attempt as an excuse to suppress dissent. The government says the measures are necessary given the security threats to Turkey.
According to the law, foundations are audited annually by civil servants. The local governors or the minister of the interior can block online fundraising campaigns to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering.
Fines of up to 200,000 lira ($ 26,500.60) may be imposed, compared to a previous maximum of 700 lira. The seven organizations said this would "in practice lead to the closure of many associations".
($ 1 = 7.5470 Lira)
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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