Updated: 04/01/18 : 13:46:08
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World :: Turkish minister tells police to break drug dealers' legs

Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has been criticised for saying police should break the legs of drug dealers who are seen outside schools.

The Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) and secular opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet both accused Mr Soylu of incitement to commit a crime.

He pledged to take the blame for it.

"If a dealer is near a school the police have a duty to break his leg. Do it and blame me. Even if it costs five, 10, 20 years in jail - we'll pay."

He was speaking at a public meeting on security, at a hall in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

He said the security forces' seizure of 20 tonnes of heroin in 2017 had made it a record year for drug hauls.

He said Turkey must fight drug dealers just as it fights the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"What we are doing to the PKK terrorists we must also do to drug dealers - no one can poison our future. What the security officer does is my responsibility."

A 2017 report by the EU's European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction says Turkey is a key transit country for gangs smuggling heroin to Europe from Afghanistan.

The report, citing figures for 2015, said methamphetamine was also a growing problem in Turkey, including ecstasy (MDMA) pills that came from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Drug-related offenders account for about 20% of the Turkish prison population, and their numbers are growing, the report said. Turkey hands down long jail terms for drug crimes.

Drug abuse rates in Turkey appear to be much lower than in more developed countries in Europe.

According to a government report, 1.5% of youths aged 15-16 have taken drugs at least once.

The Turkish police narcotics bureau reported more than 80,000 drug-related incidents in 2016, with nearly 15,000 arrests.

In recent years Turkish security forces have also destroyed marijuana plantations in some south-eastern areas where the Kurdish separatists have strong support.

Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency in its south-east for decades, and accuses the PKK of involvement in drug-trafficking.