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 Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 16:25 GMT
Turks mourn secular champion
Former Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit (foreground), President Sezer (second from left), General Ozkok (third from left)
Political lights and army generals attended the funeral
Thousands of Turks - led by the president and prime minister - have turned out for the funeral of a prominent left-wing, secular academic who was murdered on Wednesday.

Necip Hablemitoglu, 48, was shot twice in the head.

No one has yet been apprehended.

Mr Hablemitoglu, who taught at Ankara University, specialised in Islamic fundamentalism and was a staunch defender of the secular state.

A murder reminding of the troublesome old days

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul
At the service, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Islamic prayers and placed a red carnation on Mr Hablemitoglu's coffin.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Chief of Staff General Hilmi Ozkok - both secularists - wore images of the academic pinned to their coats.

"Turkey needs political stability and then this happened... a murder reminding of the troublesome old days," Mr Gul said.

Earlier this year, Mr Hablemitoglu gave expert witness at the trial of an Islamic brotherhood charged with plotting to overthrow the secular state.

Violent past

The last three decades of Turkish history have been dotted with politically motivated assassinations.

Assassinations sometimes featured in fighting between right- and left-wing groups in the 1970s, which ultimately triggered a 1980 military coup.

Killings continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Targets included several Kurds, but their attackers have never been caught.

In 1993, an investigative journalist, Ugur Mumcu, was murdered in a car bomb attack after researching connections between the state and organised crime.

The state attracted widespread suspicion of involvement in some of those killings.

But the strong army presence at Mr Hablemitoglu's funeral, correspondents say, was a gesture of loyalty to the secular political system.

See also:

16 Nov 02 | Europe
19 Dec 02 | Country profiles
05 Dec 02 | Americas
19 Dec 02 | Media reports
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