Trial Could Ban Turkey's Top Politicians, Party

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Trial Could Ban Turkey's Top Politicians, Party


Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Turkey's highest court decided yesterday to start a potentially crisis-provoking trial that could ban the country's top officials and their party from politics on grounds of anti-secularism.

Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, who requested the trial, accused the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) of "anti-secular activities" violating the constitution. President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are both AKP members.

The 11-member Constitutional Court voted unanimously in favor of the unusual legal procedure likely to take months and damage Turkey's international prestige.

At stake are Turkey's application to join the European Union, the future of its successful economic recovery and its role as an Islamic nation with Western aspirations. The business community fears a possible flight of foreign capital.

The 162-page list of accusations attempts to prove the government has an Islamic agenda. Mr. Gul and Mr. Erdogan have repeatedly insisted on their commitment to secular values, though both were previously involved in a now-banned Islamic party.

Some Western diplomats in Ankara, Turkey, think the proposed trial, inspired by hard-core secularists, is backed by a number of influential generals. The Turkish army considers itself to be the ultimate guardian of the secular system introduced in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk known as Kemalism.

The Athens conservative daily Kathimerini commented: "The Turkish military establishment is trying to regain lost ground. ... To a Westerner, the prosecutor's proposal seems preposterous but European Union candidate Turkey has a history of military and judicial coups"

In addition to the possible impact on Turkey's international prestige and its domestic political agenda, the trial is likely to have religious ramifications in a country divided by the growing influence of Islam and its symbolism. …

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