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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Turkish general in secular plea
Protesters at judge's funeral
Crowds at the funeral chanted slogans supporting the secular state
Turkey's chief of staff has praised the demonstration held by thousands of Turks following the killing of a senior judge by a suspected Islamist.

General Hilmi Ozkok said the protests against Islamic militancy were admirable and urged compatriots to keep up their defence of the secular state.

The murdered judge was from the top administrative court, which has upheld state curbs on the Muslim headscarf.

Many of those at the funeral shouted insults at ministers attending.

The ruling Justice and Development party has Islamist roots.

'Act of terror'

The general's comments were the first from the military since the attack by the man who, calling himself "a soldier of Allah," opened fire in a courtroom, wounding four judges and fatally hitting Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin.

Shock and anger on the streets of Turkey after court attack

Gen Ozkok condemned the shooting as an act of terror by extreme conservatives.

"The protests and the people's sensitivity is truly hope-giving and admirable," he said.

"But this reaction should not be limited to a single day, to a single event. It must gain continuity and it should be followed by everyone all the time."

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford, in Istanbul, says some may interpret that as a call for further protests.

The military, which has led three coups in the past, is seen in Turkey as the ultimate guarantor of a secular republic, she says. The entire military leadership turned out for the funeral on Thursday.

Disrespect

The government, meanwhile, has condemned the attack and widespread criticism of the cabinet.

Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc said the boos and insults hurled at ministers attending the funeral were deeply disrespectful to the dead judge and his relatives.

He also denied all suggestions the government had helped provoke the armed attack.

"Nobody should try to gain benefits from this grave incident," he said. "Turkey is a state of law and a strong country. We will not permit any incidents or behaviour which will harm Turkey's secular and democratic structure."

Our correspondent says some people in Turkey suspect the pro-Islamist AK party harbours a secret Islamic agenda.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Turkey's Bulent Ecevit
19 May 06 |  Europe
In pictures: Turkish protests
18 May 06 |  In Pictures
Court killing hits Turkey shares
18 May 06 |  Business
Country profile: Turkey
05 Apr 06 |  Country profiles
Q&A: Muslim headscarves
31 Aug 04 |  Europe


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