Turk court says to decide on taking up case vs AKP

17/03/2008 - 10:57

By Gareth Jones

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's Constitutional Court willdecide within 10 days whether to take up a request from stateprosecutors to shut down the ruling AK Party, one of thecourt's 11 judges said on Monday.

State prosecutors called last Friday for the closure of theAK Party and a five-year political ban on 71 party officialsincluding the prime minister on the grounds that they areallegedly trying to build an Islamic state in secular Turkey.

The AK Party, which has roots in political Islam, stronglydenies the accusations.

The indictment has raised the prospect of prolongedpolitical turmoil in Turkey and has rattled financial marketsalready badly jolted by the global credit crunch and fears of adeep recession in the United States.

The lira currency tumbled more than 4 percent against thedollar and the main Istanbul share market lost seven percent ofits value on Monday.

"The Constitutional Court is now in the process of naming arapporteur (to examine) the case. The first investigation willnot take more than 10 days," Osman Paksut, deputy chief judgeand spokesman for the court, told reporters.

The first investigation will establish whether the dossieris technically formatted in a correct manner so that theConstitutional Court may examine its contents.

When the court has agreed to examine the case, it will haveto determine whether the accusations themselves aresufficiently serious and plausible to be investigated. If itdoes, the AK Party will then have to provide arguments in itsown defence.

A final verdict could take many months.

Erdogan, who was barred from politics once before forreciting a poem deemed too Islamist by Turkey's authorities,has vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying it is an attack ondemocracy.

Erdogan, Turkey's most popular politician, was due to holda closed-door meeting with his party at 11 a.m. British time onMonday.

Turkish newspapers have speculated that the AK Party, whichhas presided over strong economic growth and political reformssince taking power in 2002, could ask opposition parties tohelp push through constitutional changes to thwart theprosecutors.

The changes would be aimed at making it more difficult toban political parties.

(Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

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