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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 12:22 GMT
Turkey court defers Erdogan decision
Supporters of AK party ware Erdogan masks at an election rally
Mr Erdogan's name is on every ballot paper
Turkey's constitutional court has given the chairman of the country's most popular party more time to prepare a defence against moves to bar him from being a party leader.

Turkey's chief prosecutor, Sabih Kanadoglu, had sought an injuction against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, for flouting the law by staying in his post.

Earlier this year Mr Erdogan was forced to stand down from one of his positions in the party because of a conviction for incitement of religious hatred.

The constitutional court said it would examine the petition for an injunction in 15 days' time - nearly two weeks after Sunday's election, which the AK party is expected to win.

Accusations

The chief prosecutor had applied for an emergency injunction to stop Recep Tayyip Erdogan campaigning as the party's leader.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan was given more time to prepare his defence

A spokesman also said the court would examine the case to ban the AK outright - although a ruling on that will not be made for months.

The appeals to the court spring from what the chief prosecutor says is an abuse of the law.

Because of his conviction - which came in 1998 after he read a poem comparing minarets to bayonets - Mr Erdogan cannot stand for parliament and was told to stand down from the party's leadership.

He cannot be prime minister even if his party wins, though the new parliament may try to change the law.

He stepped down as founding member of the party but remained party leader and spearheaded the party's campaign, declining to name a replacement.

There is some suspicion, especially amongst the party's supporters, that the legal process is politically motivated.

Much of the Turkish political establishment describes Mr Erdogan as an Islamist, a label he rejects.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kirsty Lang
"The right to free expression has become an issue"
Philip Robbins, Oxford University
"The Turks have certainly made big steps towards reform"
Jonny Dymond reports from Bursa
"Turkey's economic crisis goes on"
Turkey's election

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31 Oct 02 | Europe
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