Turkey's ruling party defends itself in court

Representatives of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Thursday appeared before the country's highest court in a bid to persuade the court not to close down their party, reported dpa. In a session held behind closed doors at the Constitutional Court, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek and Bekir Bozdag, a senior lawmaker from the AKP, gave their verbal defence against charges that the AKP sought to undermine the secular state and introduce sharia (Islamic law).
On Tuesday Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya told the court that "there is a very close danger that (the AKP) wants to impose sharia."
Yalcinkaya claims that attempts by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow women to wear Islamic-style headscarves at universities were proof that the party's aim was to impose Islamic- style law.
The indictment against the party also sites a number of speeches by various members of the party that Yalcinkaya claims as proof the AKP is undermining secular laws.
Yalcinkaya is seeking to not just have the AKP closed down but also to ban 71 members of the party, including Erdogan, from joining another political party.
Cicek on Thursday dismissed the charges saying that Yalcinkaya's indictment against the party was full of "contradictions, wrong information and unfounded claims," the Anadolu news agency reported.
"We explained why the indictment was wrong," Cicek said in a short statement after Thursday court session.
The court case comes as police have expanded a year-long investigation into allegations of a coup plot against the AKP government, arresting two retired generals, the head of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce and fierce critics of the government earlier in the week.
Turkish media have reported that the group, known as Ergenkon, had planned to stoke public clashes with security forces in order to destabilize the country and create the conditions that would allow the military to carry out a coup.
The court has a history of closing down political parties; the AKP itself was born after the closure of the Virtue Party in 2001.
Whilst AKP officials have refused to be drawn, most political analysts believe that the AKP is already preparing to launch a new party and that Erdogan would continue to pull the strings behind the scenes.
Any such new party would most likely easily win a fresh general election that could be called if the AKP is closed down.
At elections in July 2007, the AKP received 47 per cent of the vote, giving it a massive majority in parliament.
According to a poll published in the Milliyet newspaper on Monday, 53.3 per cent of those surveyed oppose the court banning the AKP with 34.3 per cent in favour.

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