Turkey to work on rule to strip terrorism supporters of citizenship: minister

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will work on a new rule to strip citizenship from Turks found to be supporting terrorism, the justice minister said on Wednesday, a day after President Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted such a measure.

A police officer secures the area following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Erdogan first floated the idea on Tuesday in a speech to lawyers. Since becoming president, he has transformed the largely ceremonial role into a more executive one, advocating for legislative moves and for the judiciary to take action.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hours later said there were no such plans underway, but Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag on Wednesday contradicted him.

“Erdogan envisages a new rule (for stripping citizenship),” Bozdag told reporters live on television.

“Of course we will begin work on this.”

Erdogan did not specify who he was targeting with the comments. In the past he said that those Turkey accuses of supporting terrorism - whether they are journalists or aid workers - are no different from terrorists themselves.

Turkey faces unprecedented security troubles in a renewed battle against the autonomy-seeking Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). Two suicide bombings blamed on Islamic State in recent months killed dozens.

Rights advocates fear that anti-terrorism laws, already used to detain academics and opposition journalists, will now be used in courts to further stifle discussion of issues such as the Kurdish conflict.

The PKK abandoned a two-year ceasefire in July, reigniting a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish, since 1984. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Davutoglu had said late on Tuesday that there was no work was underway on any rule to strip citizenship.

“At the moment we don’t have any advanced work on this nor is this a topic being debated,” Davutoglu told reporters before leaving for an official visit to Finland.

Erdogan, who founded the ruling AK Party and served as prime minister for more than a decade, has already stretched the powers of the post since becoming head of state, insisting that even without constitutional change, his election by the people automatically granted him extra authority.

He has also made no secret of his ambition for an executive presidency, a political system that he champions for Turkey and one that will be included in the ruling AK Party’s proposal for a new constitution.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky