By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s parliament on Thursday passed the first package in a set of landmark judicial reforms, one of Turkey’s signature legislative initiatives this year.
The reform package, passed by a show of hands, contains a host of changes, including laws covering freedom of expression, passports, and protecting children.
The reforms are designed to "strengthen trust in the judiciary [and] have an important place in our efforts to take our country to a brighter future," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement in September.
Under the reforms, expressions of thought that do not "cross the limits of reporting" and that are "for the purpose of criticism" will not constitute a crime.
Also under the reforms, the pre-sentencing detention period for crimes not due to face a heavy penalty court will not surpass six months, and for more serious offenses, the period will be a maximum of one year.
In addition, lawyers who have been registered with the bar association for 15 years will be eligible for special green passports that facilitate getting visas and eliminate visa requirements for some countries.
The reforms also lay out procedures for people who were dismissed from government service under decree but were later acquitted to be issued passports after a check by the Interior Ministry.
Also under the reforms, in investigations of possible sexual abuse of children, the testimony of children will be taken by experts who are working in centers caring for abused children.