Court convenes on AKP ban case

  
The court can bar Erdogan and other AKP members from politics for five years [AFP]

Turkey's highest court has convened to decide whether the country's ruling party should be banned on charges that it is steering the secular nation towards Islamic rule.

The constitutional court began deliberating on Monday on charges facing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) for violating the principle of secularism enshrined in the country's constitution.

 

A decision could come as early as this week. Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera correspondent in Turkey, said that it will take the judges "at least three to 10 days" to reach a verdict.

 The court sitting came shortly after bomb blasts rocked Istanbul late on Sunday evening, leaving at least 11 civilians dead and 70 wounded.

Turkey's chief prosecutor asked the constitutional court in March to disband the AKP and bar Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, along with 70 other party members from joining the political party for five years.

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, is also on the prosecutor's list.

Erdogan told The Hurriyet, a Turkish daily: "The Turkish Republic is our firmament. 

"The column that supports it is union and unity; if it collapses, we will all be trapped underneath," he said.

Odd coincidence

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Ilnur Cevik, editor-in-chief of the New Anatolan daily, noted that the bombings "coincide with a court case against ultra-nationalists in Turkey".

"We hope there isn't a link but there seems to be a very big chaotic atmosphere in Turkey," he said.

Referring to the alleged coup attempt by "far-right activists", the indictment for which is due out on Friday, Cevik said that all these different issues "seem to be related one way or another" and that the people involved aspire to "disrupt Turkey".

He said that even though the AKP may attempt to use these attacks to its advantage in the court, the judges will see "the court case on its own merits".

Fault line

The case against the AKP highlights the political rift between Turkey's secularist circles, mostly active in the judiciary, military and academia, and the ruling party, whose many members are devout Muslims with ties to the country's Islamist movement.

The AKP and the secularist opposition were locked last year in a dispute over who should be Turkey's president, a largely symbolic post. However, the AKP won that round by easily winning a quick election.

The party later attempted to lift a decades-old ban on the wearing of headscarves at universities, but the top court overturned the bill, saying it was anti-secularist.

Dozen parties banned

Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, the chief prosecutor, cites the headscarf bill as proof that the government is trying to scrap secularist principles enshrined in the constitution.

The court has banned two dozen political parties since it was established in 1963.

Observers say outlawing the party could plunge Turkey into political chaos, affect membership talks with the European Union, and hit the economy at a time of global financial jitters and rising energy prices.

Shutting down the AKP could force quick elections and unsettle markets as well as damage ties with the European Union.

Reacties

Turkish court begins deliberating closure case against ruling AKP

Turkey's Constitutional Court began Monday deliberating the merits of the closure case against Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Constitutional Court rejected in the first session a demand of a Turkish lawyer to recuse four members, including the court chairman and the deputy. (UPDATED)


Turkey's politicians, the European Union and foreign investors are awaiting a verdict in the case which has drawn Turkey into a period of political uncertainty and has harmed financial markets.

The court board will come together every day until they reach a decision.

"We don't accept inculcation from anybody," Turkey's top prosecutor announced on Monday in response to speculation they had met with suspects arrested in the Ergenekon investigation.

In the Ergenekon investigation nearly one hundred people, including anti-AKP politicians, journalists and intellectuals, are accused of being members of an illegal organization believed to be planning provoking events that would pave the way for a military coup to overthrow the ruling government. A number of the accused are still being held in custody pending trial.

Many questions whether the operation is being used to suppress opponents of the ruling party.


Lawyer Mustafa Kemal Turan, appointed by Turkish citizen, Omer Ozgur Korkmaz, applied to the constitutional court ahead of the court's session demanding the recuse of four court members, chairman Hasim Kilic, and deputy Osman Paksut, and court members Serruh Kaleli and Necmi Ozler, claiming they are biased towards the case.

The Turkish Constitutional Court can find the ruling AKP not guilty and dismiss the case, or convict it and either fine or ban the party and some of its leaders, in which case the government will fall and early parliamentary elections be called, possibly in November.

The court can also rule to deprive the ruling AKP of financial assistance from the Treasury instead of its dissolution.

Under the constitution, a qualified majority of votes is required to disband a political party which means at least seven out of 11 members of the court need to vote in favor of the closure of the party.

The country's top prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, demanded in March a five-year ban on 71 party officials, including Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, as well as the closure of the ruling AKP that he accused of being engaged in a systematic effort to impose Islam on Turkey.



Earlier, court rapporteur, Osman Can advocated in his non-binding report that the court should reject the closure case.



EC COMMENT



The European Commission (EC) should see both the verdict and the reason of the closure case, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, the spokesman of the commission, said on Monday.

It was not a right thing to comment on the possible impact of the case on Turkey-European Union (EU) full membership negotiations before the case was concluded, Tardio told his regular daily press briefing.



Tardio said every one had to respect the court, adding it was important to act in accordance with the principle of separation of forces.

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