Anakara: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called on parliament to act swiftly to broaden an anti-terrorism law, saying those who support killers of innocent people were no different from terrorists themselves.
His comments, drawing criticism from rights groups, followed the deaths of 37 people in a suicide bombing in Ankara on Sunday that security officials blamed on Kurdish militants. It was the second such attack in the capital in a month.
Rights groups fear that anti-terrorism laws, already used to detain academics and opposition journalists, will be used in courts to stifle discussion of issues such as a Kurdish conflict in the media and on other public platforms.
"Those who support directly or indirectly people who destroy innocent lives are not in the slightest different from terrorists," Erdogan said in a speech.
"We must immediately revise the definition of terror and terrorist. In line with this new definition, we must immediately change the penal code."
Western states are concerned about a wave of bombings in Turkey, blamed on IS or Kurdish militants, valuing Ankara as a key ally in containing warfare in neighbouring Syria and Iraq; but at the same time, they have criticised the NATO ally and EU aspirant's human rights record, raising questions about the independence of its judiciary.
Police detained 20 suspects, including lawyers, in an Istanbul operation targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is accused of carrying out the Ankara bombing, state-run Anadolu Agency said.
On Tuesday an Istanbul court detained three academics pending trial on charges of "terrorist propaganda" after they publicly read a declaration urging an to end military operations in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
A Briton, who has lived in Turkey for decades and had gone to the court to show support for the academics, was detained overnight for terrorism offences.
"I was released by the court but they're going to deport me now," Chris Stephenson, a teacher at Bilgi University told local media after his release. "This is very scary and wrong."
Stephenson was one of more than 1,000 academics who signed a petition this year criticising military action in the largely Kurdish southeast.
A legal expert in the ruling AK Party told Reuters the government aimed to "broaden the extent" of the anti-terror law.
"A man may not have participated directly in terrorist acts but may have supported them ideologically. This may not be a full terror crime, but a degree of terror crime," he said.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, said she was appalled at the prospect of a widening of the definition of terrorism. "It completely violates Turkey's international obligations and law," she said
Over 40,000 people have been killed since 1984 in an insurgency by Kurdish militants for autonomy. A ceasefire broke down in July, unleashing some of the worst violence in the history of the conflict.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.