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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK

World: Europe

Turkish Islamist leaders face fraud charges

Necmettin Erbakan - the former prime minister's personal wealth could be frozen

Recai Kutan, who leads the main Turkish opposition party, and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan are accused of fraud.

Turkey's chief prosecutor accuses the Islamist leaders of diverting a trillion Turkish lira (more than $3.5m) of state-donated money from the Welfare Party shortly before it was outlawed for sedition.

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris: Secular elite want them out of politics
The prosecutor called it "the biggest fraud in the history of our republic," and said financial records were hidden, falsified and destroyed.

He now wants part of the personal wealth of the accused to be frozen until the case is resolved.

The two men could also face three-year jail sentences if found guilty.

The BBC's Ankara correspondent says the legal move is part of a long campaign by the secular authorities against the rise of political Islam in Turkey.

Necmettin Erbakan was Turkey's first Islamist prime minister and head of the Welfare Party.

When a constitutional court banned the party in January, it also banned him from participating in politics for five years.

The ban attracted criticism from America and some European countries, including Britain.

Mr Erbakan is believed to exercise considerable control over the Islamist movement.

A court in Ankara will now have to decide whether the prosecutor's indictment should lead to a trial.

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