Robert Tait in
Monday July 28, 2008
A senior Turkish prosecutor has raised tensions on the eve of a landmark court case that could leave
In an interview with the Guardian, Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu, chairman of the association of judges and prosecutors (Yarsav) and deputy to Turkey's chief prosecutor, said the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) was seeking a system of sharia law that would destroy the country's secular system and transform it into an Islamic state.
He claimed the government had exposed its true agenda in a series of measures, including attempts to establish halal standards in food production, signing bilateral agreements underwritten by "Islamic laws" with fellow Muslim countries, increasing religious education at state schools and trying to allow female students to wear headscarves at university.
The moves were aimed at reviving an Islamic consciousness dormant since the end of the
"The basis of the case against the AKP is intolerance," he said. "A sharia system is, by its nature, intolerant of other thoughts, beliefs and practices. Just like fascism in
The comments came as the constitutional court prepares to open hearings today that could result in the AKP's dissolution. The court's 11 judges will consider an application by the chief prosecutor, Aburrahman Yalcinkaya - Eminagaoglu's immediate boss at the supreme court of appeals - to close the party and ban 71 senior members, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the president Abdullah Gul, from party politics for anti-secularism.
A decision is expected this week. If the party is closed and its leaders banned, it could lead to early elections, with the AKP competing under a different banner and figures such as Erdogan running as independents.
Eminagaoglu's remarks appeared timed to counter fears among
However, Eminagaoglu insisted the case heeded EU regulations and said European critics understood neither
"If you look at Islamic countries, the headscarf isn't an expression of religious belief but the symbol of an Islamic regime.
The blunt remarks contrasted with the conciliatory tone struck by Erdogan, who called at the weekend for national unity. He told the pro-secularist newspaper, Hurriyet, that the impasse had been created by an "elitist group" who wanted to govern in their own interests.
However, senior AKP figures privately admit that the party needlessly alarmed opponents by reforming the law banning headscarves at universities and by pushing Gul's presidential candidacy last year, despite the military's opposition because of his Islamist past.
"There are ordinary men and women on the street who do not want to change their lifestyles and are opposed to our party," said Yasar Yakis, an AKP MP and former foreign minister. "We should have done something to dissipate the worries of those who believe we will bring in sharia law."