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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Turkey passes key penal reforms
Turkish MPs before debate on penal code was suspended
The adultery clause triggered heated debate in Turkey
The Turkish parliament has approved reforms to its penal code which are expected to boost the country's chances of joining the European Union.

Lawmakers approved the reform package in an emergency session, a week before a 6 October EU report on whether Ankara should start accession talks.

Voting was suspended 10 days ago, after some deputies tried to press ahead with a clause to criminalise adultery.

The government abandoned the clause after criticism from EU politicians.

Modernisers pleased

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Ankara says there is still some criticism of the code.

Some complain it does not do enough for women's rights and there are concerns over interpretation of some new clauses.

But in general, the new penal code has been welcomed by those who have pressed Turkey to modernise.

Assaults on women will be more heavily punished
Rape in marriage recognised
Life terms for perpetrators of "honour killings"
Jail terms for the sexual molestation of children, trafficking of human organs and the pollution of the environment
Tougher measures against perpetrators of torture
Corruption in government to be tackled
Proposal to criminalise adultery dropped

Even in Austria, which has been lukewarm on Turkey's accession to the EU, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said negotiations on Turkey's membership should begin.

"The EU Commission should now give the green light for negotiations. But a greater range of options must also be made available as far as the outcome is concerned," Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper quoted him as saying.

In Turkey, government spokesman and justice minister Cemil Cicek told parliament that in his view a date for EU negotiations would be given in light of the vote.

"The speed of our drive to full membership depends on our efforts. No article in this new code can be used to limit rights and freedoms," he said.

The overhaul of the code is the last step in Turkey's four-year-long reform process.

There have been sweeping changes to the courts, the constitution, the treatment of minorities, the military's role in government and the civil code.

The European Commission, which has overseen much of the reform process, appears very pleased by how much Turkey has changed.

Others caution that many of the legal changes have yet to be implemented in any meaningful way.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond
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