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Sunday, February 22, 1998 Published at 13:20 GMT

World: Europe

Turkey's ban on Islamists comes into effect
image: [ Welfare Party supporters in happier times ]
Welfare Party supporters in happier times

The pro-Islamist Welfare party in Turkey - which led a government coalition for a year until June last year - has been officially dissolved for undermining Turkey's secular constitution.

The ban was ordered by Turkey's Constitutional Court five weeks ago, but came into effect on Sunday when the order was published in Turkey's Official Gazette.

It means that the Welfare Party's leader, the former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, loses his seat in parliament, along with several colleagues.

[ image: Necmettin Erbakan: could be prosecuted]
Necmettin Erbakan: could be prosecuted
As a result, he now faces possible charges of sedition.

Under Turkish law, the party's assets, which are already frozen, are liable for seizure by the Finance Ministry.

The ban came at the end of a long struggle between the Welfare Party and Turkey's military establishment, which accused the former of trying to subvert the country's secular ethos.

The party has said it will appeal against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights.

The US and the European Union have criticised the ban, saying it damages confidence in Turkish democracy.

Party members are believed to be considering regrouping under a new name and new banner without any reference to Welfare.

A Welfare Party official in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir said: "The shop signs are being taken down now, but tomorrow new ones will be put up.

"You cannot erase (our ideology) from the hearts and minds of more than six million voters," he said.

A BBC correspondent in Turkey says that national elections are due in the autumn or possibly sooner and any new party must have held a formal party conference six months before any national election.

Our correspondent says Welfare activists will have to move fast if they want to regroup politically.


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