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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Key Turkey reform bill withdrawn
Women in Ankara protest against the proposed legislation
Women's groups protested against a planned adultery law
Turkey's government has withdrawn from debate a penal code reform bill seen as crucial to the country's EU entry.

The move came hours after members of the ruling party said they would bring an amendment to introduce a clause to criminalising adultery.

On Tuesday the government appeared to have dropped plans to make adultery a crime after pressure from the EU.

The head of the parliament's justice commission, said the entire package was now to be reviewed.

The latest political developments show that the AKP is still debating the adultery clause
Kemal Anadol
Opposition MP

The BBC's Jonny Dymond, in Istanbul, says a link is presumed between this action and the stated intention of some members of parliament to bring in their own amendment criminalising adultery.

It may be that the government feels it needs more time to test the parliamentary waters as it has misjudged the mood of its MPs before, he adds.

Whatever the reason, the EU and Turkey's jittery financial markets will be watching eagerly to see how quickly and in what form the reformed code makes its way back to parliament, our correspondent says.

But the main opposition Republican Party (CHP) accused the governing party of "twisting the truth".

"The latest political developments show that the AKP is still debating the adultery clause," CHP whip Kemal Anadol said.

The CHP, which strongly opposes the motion, called on the government to honour a bipartisan arrangement under which only amendments both parties agree on can be submitted during debate on the reform package.

The reform bill is intended to bring Turkish laws closer to those of EU member states.

EU report

Many of the legal reforms - which include outlawing torture and imposing stiffer penalties on human traffickers - have been welcomed by the EU and human rights activists.

But the clause to make adultery a crime was greeted with dismay by women's groups and liberal commentators, who demonstrated outside parliament against the bill.

An EU report due out in October will assess Turkey's progress towards meeting EU membership criteria.

Adultery used to be illegal in Turkey until 1996, when the Constitutional Court struck the law down because it penalised women more than men.

Men were deemed to have been adulterous if they were involved in a long-term affair; but women could be charged if they were unfaithful only once.

EU sees Turkish reform progress
06 Sep 04 |  Europe
Turkey 'fails to protect women'
02 Jun 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
14 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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