Turkey's Erdogan fights back at attempts to ban his party

(dpa) - Facing a possible ban from politics and his party being closed down, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday rejected a prosecutor's allegation that his party was against secularism, saying that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was instead fighting for democracy.

Speaking a day after Turkey's top prosecutor launched proceedings in the Constitutional Court to have the AKP closed down, Erdogan said the moves were an attempt to undermine the will of the nation as shown in elections last year where his AKP won a resounding victory.

"We are a party that fights for democracy," Erdogan told supporters in the town of Siirt in south-eastern Turkey.

"No one can portray the AKP as a focal point against secularism. The 16.5 million people who voted for the AKP did so believing in its (values) as a party which is democratic, secular and (is a supporter of the) the principles of social rule of law," he said.

"Yesterday's events were not a step against us but a move against the nation's will," Erdogan said.

Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya on Friday night lodged an indictment against the AKP seeking to have the party banned on the basis that it was a focal point for anti-secular activities.

The indictment, which also seeks to have Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and scores of other AKP officials banned from politics for five years, claimed that the AKP had attempted to undermine the secular state.

It cited such moves as working to allow women to wear Islamic- style headscarves at universities and attempts to restrict to "red light zones" the public consumption of alcohol.

"Lifting the headscarf ban will make the universities a place for religious communities, racists and separatists who are against the secular and unitary structure of the state," CNN-Turk television quoted the indictment as saying.

"(The AKP) has become a focus for activities against secularism," it alleged.

The indictment listed a number of other moves by AKP-controlled municipalities to undermine secularism including the banning of billboards in Istanbul which featured bikini-clad models and a move by the Istanbul municipality to make boys and girls ride in different school buses.

The indictment said its case against the party was based on precedents set when the constitutional court had outlawed the AKP's predecessor parties.

Erdogan helped establish the AKP following the court's decision to ban the Virtue Party in 2001 which itself was formed after the Welfare Party had been banned for anti-secular activities.

The AKP has fought a number of battles with hardline secularists who fear that moderate Islamist moves by the party will ultimately lead to Turkey becoming an Islamic state with sharia law.

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