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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Turkey bars Islamic leader from poll
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan's party has been leading the polls
The leader of Turkey's most popular party has been banned from running in November's general election because of his criminal record.

The country's electoral board ruled that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the head of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), could not take part because of his conviction on charges of "Islamist sedition".


The board decided by a majority of the votes to reject Erdogan's application to stand in the elections

Electoral board
Turkish law disqualifies candidates with criminal records from running for office - although Mr Erdogan had challenged those rules citing recent amendments to the Turkish penal code.

Also barred from running were former pro-Islamic premier Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the country's pro-Kurdish party (Hadep), Murat Bozlak, and the most prominent Turkish human rights activist, Akin Birdal.

All three men have been convicted of sedition in the past.

The AK Party, which has religious origins and champions the poor, tops most opinion polls in the staunchly secular, but mainly Muslim country.

Mr Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, was convicted in 1998 for publicly reading a poem that included the lines: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers."

Mr Erdogan may be succeeded as AK's candidate by his deputy, Abdullah Gul, who is considered a moderate, newspapers say.

He said on Wednesday that he would continue campaigning for his party.

"I will run through the roads of my beloved Anatolia and ask my people to vote," he said.


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16 Sep 02 | Europe
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