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Turkish PM: Top Court Overstepped Role

By Dorian Jones
10 June 2008

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the Constitutional Court must explain its decision to overturn the government's move to allow students to wear Muslim headscarves at university. Last week's Constitutional Court ruling was the most serious setback for the Islamist-rooted AK Party since it came to power in 2002. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

Addressing his parliamentary deputies, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave his first reaction to the overturning by the constitution court of the government decision to ease the headscarf ban in universities. Mr. Erdogan strongly condemned the decision.

He said, nobody can put themselves in the place of the lawmaker. He added that blocking the will of the parliament through ideological legal interpretations is tantamount to going against the will of the people.

The prime minister then went on to criticize the court for not publishing its reasoning behind the verdict.

The judge's ruling has been condemned by some legal experts and the government for overstepping its powers.

Head of the court, Hasim Killic, speaking to reporters after the ruling, justified their decision because of intense pressure on the court.

He said the speculations made on our court in the recent months saddened us, and therefore, we decided to announce the ruling in such way.

Several judges have claimed they were intimidated, with one accusing the police of following him.

Judge Killic said over the weekend that a full and detailed explanation of their verdict will be released soon.

In a separate case before the same court, Turkey's chief prosecutor is also seeking to disband Erdogan party on the grounds it is the focal point of anti-secular activities. According to observers, the court's headscarf verdict makes it more likely that it will rule against the ruling AK party.

Modern Turkey has been a strictly secular state since its founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 83 years ago. Mindful of the rising polarization in the country Mr. Erdogan appealed to his supporters to act with restraint.

Mr. Erdogan said we need to act responsibly and we need to act with common sense. No one should forget the fact that both legislation and judiciary exist for the people. He said we cannot accept attempts aimed to harm legislation and judiciary. It is our common responsibility to further strengthen both of them.

The parliamentary speaker, Koksal Toptan, an AK member, was quoted by the Turkish media as saying it was the prime minister's responsibility to ease the rising tensions. Observers say Mr. Erdogan will also be aware he has to tread carefully, with the world economic credit crunch already making investors nervous, the Turkish economy could be hit hard by a further escalation in the political crisis.

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