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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 00:01 GMT
Turkish PM attacks proposed ban
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Mr Erdogan's party has been under investigation for six months
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised a proposal to ban his ruling AK Party as being against the "national will".

He was speaking after Turkey's chief prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban the party, accusing it of anti-secular activities.

Turkey's secularist constitution does not allow any religious influence on the operation of the state.

The AK Party, which has Islamist roots, won last year's general elections.

In announcing his indictment, prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya said he believed there was enough evidence to show the party had contravened Turkey's secular constitution.

He also revealed the party had been under investigation for six months.

EU warning

"The action taken yesterday is not aimed at the Justice and Development Party [AKP] but the will of the nation," Mr Erdogan said.

"No one can say that [AKP supporters] are a focal point of anti-secular activities," he added.

The proposed ban prompted a warning from European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, suggesting it was not in line with the democratic standards expected of would-be member states.

"In a normal European democracy, political issues are debated in the parliament and decided through the ballot box, not in the court rooms," Mr Rehn told reporters in Brussels.

"The executive shouldn't meddle into the court's work, while the legal system shouldn't meddle into democratic politics," he said.

Turkey is currently implementing reforms as part of its bid to join the EU.

Headscarf controversy

The AKP is already locked in a battle with Turkey's secular elite, backed by the powerful military, over recent changes to a ban on wearing headscarves.

The Constitutional Court is reviewing an appeal by the main pro-secular opposition party on the validity of parliament's constitutional amendments in February to allow women to wear Islamic headscarves at universities.

The AKP has argued that the headscarf ban unfairly bars large numbers of girls from higher education in a nation where about 66% of women wear the scarf.

Many secularists in the country equate the wearing of the headscarf with political Islam.

The AKP has its roots in a banned Islamist party.

But the government of Prime Minister Erdogan - which is negotiating for Turkey to join the EU - has insisted that the party's political views have changed.



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