Turkish court to continue debating ruling party's closure

(dpa) - Turkey's Constitutional Court is to meet for a third day Wednesday after failing Tuesday to reach a decision on whether to close down the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which is charged with undermining the secular system.

The court's 11 judges met behind closed doors for a second day Tuesday. Turkish media reported that a decision is not expected until later in the week.

Turkey's chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, brought the case to close down the AKP earlier telling the court that it was "clear and present danger that (the AKP) wants to impose shariah law."

The prosecutor has claimed that attempts by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow women to wear Islamic- style headscarves at universities were proof that the party aims to impose Islamic-style law.

In addition to banning the party, Yalcinkaya is seeking bans from party politics for Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and 69 AKP figures.

The 11 judges of the court will sit daily until a verdict is reached. The court has three options, dismiss the case, uphold the case or merely to suspend state-aid to the party.

A court rapporteur two weeks ago advised that the party should not be closed down saying that the actions of the party are in fact allowed under laws regarding freedom of speech.

The court has a history of disregarding rapporteurs' advice, however, and has closed down dozens of parties in the past. 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, perhaps running for parliament as an independent.

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 last year the AKP received 47 per cent of the vote, giving it a massive majority in parliament.

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