A long-awaited bill to exempt conscripts from military service in return for payment will be completed by next week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced yesterday.
“We are about to conclude work [on the draft]. I believe we will finish it if not this then next week. We will move immediately and hopefully pass it through Parliament,” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister made the announcement shortly before he met with Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel for talks that focused on the details of the arrangement.
The government and military were reportedly at odds on the eligibility criteria for the beneficiaries of the bill. The government was said to be planning to include men aged over 25, while the General Staff was reportedly in favor of exempting only university graduates aged over 35 so that fewer conscripts could benefit.
The government is yet to disclose the amount of the payment that will be required and how the generated funds will be used.
In a related development yesterday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said a planned legal arrangement to address the plight of conscientious objectors would not amount to abolishing the compulsory draft and a jail sentence for refusing the compulsory draft would stay on the books.
The minister had announced the previous day that work was under way on a legal amendment to address a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that condemned Turkey in 2006 over repeated prison terms given to anti-war activist Osman Murat Ülke, who refused to do his military service. The Council of Europe has urged Ankara to enact prompt measures to resolve the problem by December.
The ECHR “has not contested the fact that a jail sentence exists in Turkey for the refusal of compulsory military service. They have contested the fact that the punishment was given over and over again,” Ergin said yesterday.