Turkey's Ruling Party to Stand Trial for Being 'Too Religious'
Istanbul, Nicholas Birchin, The Independent (London, England)
Turkey's highest court has voted to hear a case to close down the country's ruling party, in a move that looks set to open the bitterest bout yet in a 50-year war pitting popularly-elected governments against the secular establishment.
The Constitutional Court's unanimous decision comes a fortnight after a prosecutor charged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with trying to turn Turkey into a country that "takes religion as its reference" and demanded political bans on the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the president Abdullah Gl.
The offshoot of an Islamist party closed down by courts in 1998, the conservative AKP has a month to prepare its defence. With the closure case likely to last at least six months, many fear it will now have neither the time nor the inclination for reforms aimed at strengthening the country's still-flawed democracy and economy.
Senior European figures pointedly warned Turkey over the weekend that outlawing AKP could jeopardise the country's struggling European Union accession bid. A few days earlier, Turkish business leaders called for compromise to avoid even deeper political turmoil. But with some analysts describing the current tensions as the end of Turkey's Cold War, the signs are that both sides may be preparing to fight to the end.
The indictment on 14 March was just the latest attempt by secularists to trip up a party that came to power in 2002 and was re- elected with 47 per cent of the vote last summer. There were two foiled coup attempts in 2004, and a veiled threat of military intervention last year.
Judicial investigations into a secularist-nationalist gang charged with "provoking armed rebellion against the government" picked up speed last week with the arrest of a prominent secularist journalist and the leader of a left-wing party. …