Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 09:36 UK

PM 'undermined' Turkey secularism

Prime Minister  Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Mr Erdogan denies seeking to create an Islamist state

Turkey's prime minister was involved in anti-secular activities, the country's Constitutional Court has said.

The court was explaining why it it imposed financial sanctions on the governing AK Party in July.

But it said that while PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other AKP leaders had broken secular principles, they had not promoted violence.

The court did not, in the end, ban the AKP, as many commentators had predicted it would.

The case pitted the secular elite against the AKP. The party has denied it wants to create an Islamist state by stealth.

The party, which has Islamist roots, won re-election in polls last year.

Funding cut

In their ruling published on Friday, the judges cited the AKP's efforts to promote religious education and its aborted attempt to abolish a ban on wearing headscarves in universities as violations of secular principles.

Religious matters have been "turned into central issues in politics at a scale leading to social divisions", the document said.

The court, however, stressed that the AKP had also undertaken reforms to improve human rights.

"It is obvious the party has used the powers of government to bring the country in line with the standards of modern Western democracies," it said.

Explaining why it had rejected prosecutors' demands to ban the AKP, the court said there was no evidence that the party had been seeking to undermine secularism through violence.

As a result, the court said, the party had been stripped of half of the state funds it was entitled to this year.

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17 Jul 08 |  Europe

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