Türkiye is preparing to introduce harsher sentences for perpetrators of espionage as part of a new legal package.

Following the Eid holiday, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is set to bring up to Parliament the ninth legal reform package that includes special legislation for those spying or committing other crimes for foreign intelligence services.

The Turkish Penal Code’s Article 328 stipulates, “Anyone who obtains information meant to be secret in quality for state security or domestic or foreign political interests for the purposes of political or military espionage will be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison.”

The article, however, does not cover acts like abducting foreign nationals or members of foreign intelligence, following targets in Türkiye or gathering intelligence/documents.

The AK Party’s motion adds a new article to the penal code introducing three to seven years in prison for anyone committing crimes on behalf of foreign intelligence, including abduction and surveillance.

The sentence goes up during times of war and if the crime is committed by those serving in war preparations or strategically important units for national security.

The article stipulates that for the crime to occur, the perpetrator must act in line with the strategic interests or instructions of a foreign state or organization and that this foreign organization must not be established in accordance with Turkish law.

Prosecutors will be permitted to launch investigations on said charges but they are required to secure the Justice Ministry’s authorization for prosecution during trials.

The package comes at a time of heightened espionage activity in the country. As the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rages on, Türkiye has uncovered several networks operated by Mossad in the country.

They are accused of recruiting Turkish nationals and people of other nationalities living in the country to spy on Palestinians, particularly people associated with the resistance group Hamas.

Earlier this year, authorities have also discovered several Syrians working for the French intelligence.

The proposal has been criticized as an “agency of influence,” but the AK Party said the package didn’t include such a change, citing efforts to “combat new types of espionage” for the article.

“The nature of espionage has changed in modern times as it now includes crimes committed through different techniques,” party officials have said.

The case of Metin Gürcan, who was tried on charges of “successively disclosed confidential information regarding the security of the state for the purpose of espionage” is often cited in this regard.

The prosecution sought 35 years in prison for Gürcan, but he was acquitted of the crime of exposing state information. Instead, he received five years in prison for the crime of “providing information that should remain secret due to its quality for the security and political interests of the state.”

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