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Turkey's Ruling Party Defending Itself in Court


Turkey's ruling AK Party Thursday defended itself in the country's constitutional court against charges it is undermining the secular state. The party is facing dismantling, and dozens of its leaders, including the prime minister and president, a political ban. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

The Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek spent the day Thursday defending his party in a closed session of the Turkish constitutional court. The Islamic-rooted AK Party is accused by the country's top prosecutor of seeking to overthrow the secular state.

Speaking to reporters after leaving court, Cicek, who is a lawyer, dismissed the charge.

He said he explained to the court the prosecutor's case against his party is not based on law. We said the case has to be judged on many levels, including constitutional law, human rights conventions and Turkish law. He said he told the court this case should be decided speedily is it affects the governance of the country.

Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya told the court earlier this week the AK Party posed a "clear and present danger" that it was seeking to impose Islamic law on the country. Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 as a strictly secular state.

Along with the threat of the AK Party closure, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, along with 69 senior party members, are facing a five-year political ban if convicted.

Political analysts predict Turkey will be thrown into a political and economic turmoil if the court orders the party to be disbanded.

More than 20 government critics, including two retired generals, were arrested earlier this week in what the opposition claims is the government's intimidation campaign. The arrests are part of a year-long police investigation into allegations the opposition is conspiring to topple the government.

Deputy chairman of the AK Party, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, dismissed the intimidation charge.

He said as the political party in power, the AK Party is acting with an understanding of its duties and obligations. He accused certain circles in the opposition of trying to politicize the police probe.

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