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BBC Ankara correspondent Chris Morris
"Mr Erbakan has already been banned from politics for five years"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 March, 2000, 17:05 GMT
Ex-Turkish PM sentenced
Necmettin Erbakan
Mr Erbakan was Turkey's first Islamist prime minister
Former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan has been sentenced to a year in jail.

A court in the city of Diyarbakir found him guilty of what it described as "provoking hatred" in a speech he delivered six years ago.

Prosecutors cited the 1994 election campaign speech in which Mr Erbakan railed against the secularist establishment, accusing it of dividing Turks and Kurds by replacing Islam-based public life with a secular and nationalist ideology.

In the speech, he referred to pro-secular members of parliament as infidels.

It is extremely sad to sentence a person who served this country with love for more than 50 years. It is unbelievable. It is a shame for a democracy.

Recai Kutan, Leader of the Virtue Party
He also attacked the fact that Turkish students opened their school day by reciting nationalist slogans and not Koranic verses.

Mr Erbakan has been banned from party politics since 1998, when a high court outlawed his Islamist Welfare Party for attempting to subvert the country's secular constitution.

He was not in court to hear the verdict, but his lawyer said he would appeal.

Political Islam

Mr Erbakan became the first Islamist prime minister of officially secular Turkey in 1996. He was forced from office a year later in a campaign spearheaded by the powerful military.

The authorities have maintained a close scrutiny on the perceived danger from political Islam since then.

Welfare's successor, the Virtue Party, now faces the threat of closure by a court on charges of trying to replace the modern constitution with one based on Islamic Sharia law.

Virtue leader Recai Kutan described the sentence passed on Mr Erbakan as a "disgrace" for Turkish democracy.

"It is extremely sad to sentence a person who served this country with love for more than 50 years," said Mr Kutan.

"It is unbelievable. It is a shame for a democracy. This verdict has proved just how valuable our struggle for human rights and democracy is," he added.

Despite the legal ban, Mr Erbakan is still said to wield great behind-the-scenes influence over the Virtue Party. But he failed in an attempt to stand for elections as an independent last April.

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17 Jan 98 | Middle East
Turkey Bans The Islamists
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