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Turkey's Top Court to Begin Hearings in Case to Ban Ruling Party

Turkey's top court has decided to hold its first hearings early next month in a case seeking to ban the country's ruling party.

Court sources Tuesday said Turkey's Constitutional Court will hear the prosecution's oral arguments in the controversial case on July 1.

The prosecution petitioned the court in March, saying the governing Justice and Development (AK) party should be dissolved because it threatens Turkey's secular principles.

Prosecutors also are calling for about 70 AK party members, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, to be barred from politics.

The AK party has denied the charges and calls the petition anti-democratic. The party's defense is expected to make its oral arguments on July 3.

The European Union has criticized the proposed ban, warning that the case may interfere with Turkey's long-term goals of joining the EU.

Turkish secularists have criticized the AK for alleged attacks on Turkey's secular system, including easing restrictions on religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.