Turkey grants increased powers to neighborhood watchmen

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s parliament has approved a contentious bill that will grant neighborhood watchmen powers that are almost on par with the country’s police force. The bill passed Thursday with the votes of the ruling party and its nationalist ally, despite opposition parties’ concerns that the legislation empowers an under-qualified force and will lead to a further erosion of freedoms and to human rights violations.  The bill allows the more than 21,000-strong force to use firearms, to stop vehicles, carry out ID checks and conduct body searches. The guards cannot arrest or interrogate suspects. Opposition lawmakers say the ruling party is trying to create a loyal militia.