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Tuesday, April 21, 1998 Published at 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK


Turkish court jails Islamist mayor

In Turkey, a state security court has sentenced the Islamist mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayiip Erdogan, to ten months in prison for an allegedly anti-secular speech. He was accused of inciting racial and religious hatred in an address he gave to a meeting the town of Siirt in eastern Turkey last year. The sentence is seen as a further blow to Turkey's hard-pressed Islamist movement.

The mayor's speech was seen as a diatribe against the secular system in Turkey in which the he described the mosques as barracks, and the minarets of the mosques as bayonets.

The state security court in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir found Mr Erdogan guilty and gave him a prison sentence of ten months.

His lawyers have said that they will appeal against his sentence, but if it is upheld Mr Erdogan will have to step down from his post as mayor, and he will not be able to stand as a candidate in the local elections next year.

This would be a severe blow to Turkey's Islamist movement, which is trying to regroup after the Islamist Welfare Party was closed down earlier this year.

Recep Tayiip Erdogan was seen as a potential leader of a new Islamist party set up after the closure of the Welfare Party. The Turkish military has waged a campaign against what they see as the Islamist threat against the secular system in Turkey.

The generals have played a central role in forcing out an Islamist-led government last year. Islamist human rights activists have also accused the judiciary of being under the influence of the armed forces.

Another Islamist mayor, and former member of the Welfare Party, was recently sentenced to one year in prison for statements seen as anti-secular. He is expected to go to jail on Friday.

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