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Turkish president signals he will sign contested bills

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has indicated that he will sign contested bills tightening state control over the Internet and the judiciary despite widespread opposition, local media reported on Tuesday.

ANKARA: Turkish President Abdullah Gul has indicated that he will sign contested bills tightening state control over the Internet and the judiciary despite widespread opposition, local media reported on Tuesday.

Turkey's parliament passed the bills in recent weeks, raising concerns over the state of democracy in the EU-hopeful country and leading rights groups to urge the Turkish president not to sign them into law.

But in an interview published on Tuesday, Gul said that while he intended to raise concerns over "problematic clauses" in both bills, it was not his place to challenge the legislation.

"As president, I cannot put myself into the position of the constitutional court," Gul was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper during a visit to Hungary.

"The opposition has already declared it will take them to the constitutional court. This is our tradition," said the president.

The judiciary bill, which sparked fist fights among deputies debating it in parliament, gave the justice ministry greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary.

The Internet bill gives the authorities the power to block web pages deemed insulting or as invading privacy.

Gul needs to sign the bills before they become law.

The measures come as the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is grappling with a major graft investigation that has implicated political and business elites in the prime minister's inner circle.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) had previously declared that it would challenge both bills with the country's top constitutional court.

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