Turk prosecutor's statement raises eyebrows

The legal validity of the prosecutor's statement of opinion, that asserts that the AK Party has a secret agenda to install an Islamic state, is under debate.

Turk prosecutor's statement raises eyebrows

Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya has submitted an opinion to the Constitutional Court, following a response from the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party), on a closure case against the ruling AK Party over allegations of it attempting to undermine Turkey's secular foundations, but the legal validity of the prosecutor's statement of opinion is under debate.

The prosecutor's statement, which seeks to ban 71 former and current AK Party members from party politics in addition to closing down the party, asserts that the AK Party has a secret agenda to install an Islamic state. It is a response to the party's initial defense. Experts point to a number of problem areas regarding the prosecutor's claims. Başkent University's Mehmet Turhan commented that the understanding that sees shutting down parties as a form of protection would never be considered democratic.

"This would not be a democracy, but a fascist dictatorship."

İlyas Doğan from Gazi University's faculty of law said the judiciary was acting as a spokesperson for the elitist circles in the establishment that refuse to respect the will of the people. He said that in a state of law, protecting the supremacy of democracy and the law was as important as protecting secularism.

Lawyers' Union Foundation head Sinan Kılıkçaya said the fact that the prosecutor made no reference to the AK Party's preliminary defense statement in his second statement indicated that he was not being objective.

Levent Köker, a constitutional law professor, warned that closure of the AK Party could cause the European Union to end membership negotiations with Turkey.

"If the prosecutor's logic makes sense, then there is no need for courts," said Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu about the indictment.

AK Party sources say they will present the party's second defense as soon as possible, although it has up to a month to submit this second defense. Either the AK Party or the prosecutor can then ask for extra time.

In his opinion statement, the prosecutor repeated the charge that the AK Party sought to introduce Shariah, or Islamic law, in Turkey and said the party's initial defense constituted an attack on the judiciary.

The ruling party's second defense statement will be more like a "reply" to the opinion statement rather than a "defense," Sadullah Ergin, deputy leader of the AK Party, told Today's Zaman. Ergin also said his party would not take long to produce this response to the prosecutor's statement, because AK Party leader Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan feels that the longer the case drags on, the greater the damage Turkey will sustain.

Ergin said it was ironic the AK Party, the leader of Turkey's modernization project and its EU integration process, stood accused of having become a center of anti-secular activity.

AK Party Mersin deputy Zafer Üskül said he believed the right thing to do would be to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights "because the rule of law no longer functions here." Other AK Party members say the party has not ruled out an application to the European court.

Nihat Ergün, one of the AK Party's parliamentary group deputy leaders, said: "It is simply not right to present a defense in response to such an indictment. Instead, we will treat our statement more like a reply. We are sad to see that such important organizations in Turkey can make such basic legal errors." The content of the AK Party statement will include harsh statements answering the prosecutor's accusations.

Yalçınkaya filed the initial indictment on March 14 on the grounds that the AK Party, in power since November 2002, was trying to destroy secularism and turn Turkey into an Islamic state.

In the petition, the prosecutor accuses the party of maintaining ties with previously banned Islamist parties from the 1990s and says AK Party supporters wedded to Islamist ideas are steadily infiltrating state structures.

Turkey's secularist establishment, including judges and army generals, has long accused the AK Party of plotting to erode the separation of state and religion, something the government denies. Secularists say a recent amendment to the Constitution to lift a ban on female students wearing the Muslim headscarf at universities was further proof of this.

The AK Party says the court case is politically motivated.

Turkish courts have banned more than 20 parties over the years on allegations of Islamist or Kurdish separatist agendas. The army edged out a government regarded as an Islamist threat as recently as 1997; but the AK Party, unlike that government, enjoys public support extending beyond its heartland into the middle classes. A predecessor to the AK Party was closed down in 2001.

The AK Party could move to change the Constitution to avert possible closure, but has ruled the option out for now, saying it wants to avoid further tension.

Eight of the 11 Constitutional Court judges were appointed by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a staunch secularist and critic of the AK Party. The Constitutional Court regards its duty as defending the secular principles of the republic, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The secularist elite view the case as a last chance to stop the AK Party; given that many of the current Constitutional Court judges will retire in the coming years, the court could eventually lose its strongly secular composition. According to the Constitution, at least seven of 11 judges must vote for closure for the court to shut down a political party.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Haziran 2008, 07:40