ISTANBUL - Turkey's president has signalled he will approve new laws tightening controls over the courts and the Internet, bolstering embattled Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan but deepening concerns about free speech and the rule of law.
The two bills, passed by parliament this month and awaiting President Abdullah Gul's approval, are seen by Erdogan's critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government, a bid to stymie court cases and to stop leaks circulating online.
The new law on the judiciary will give the government more influence over the naming of judges and prosecutors, while the Internet bill will enable the authorities to block access to web pages within hours without a prior court order.
The moves by Turkey, which has been seeking membership of the European Union for decades, have raised concern in Brussels, which fears it is shifting further away from EU norms, and unnerved investors in a country whose stability over the past decade has been based on Erdogan's firm rule.
The government says the laws will further democracy by taking back control of a judiciary it sees as in hock to a powerful but unaccountable cleric bent on unseating Erdogan, and by protecting individuals' privacy on the Internet.
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