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EU enlargement chief warns Turkey over possible court ban of ruling party

[JURIST] EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official website] warned Turkey on Saturday that there would be serious ramifications for its bid to join the European Union [JURIST news archive] if the Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] decides to shut down the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya [official profile, in Turkish] petitioned the court earlier this month to disband the AKP and bar Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul [BBC profiles] from political office. The Constitutional Court could meet as early as Monday to decide whether to take the case [JURIST report] and dissolve the AKP and ban its members from politics for five years. Rehn noted that this type of political issue would normally be debated in parliament and decided by a ballot in a typical European democracy and that a decision to ban the Islamic-oriented party could create an obstacle in Turkey's bid to become a member of the EU.

The AKP, which emerged in 2001 from a banned Islamist party, took 47 percent of the vote in the national parliamentary elections last July. The AKP controls the offices of the prime minister and president, and dominates the 550-seat parliament with 340 lawmakers. The Constitutional Court has banned several Islamist parties in the past, including the Welfare Party, which led Turkey's first pro-Islamist government for nearly a year, for violating constitutional obligations to respect Turkey's strict secular principles. The decision would be a another blow to Turkey's bid to join the EU, after French and German criticisms of the hostile trade relations [JURIST report] between Turkey the divided island of Cyprus [CIA backgrounder]. Other stumbling blocks [JURIST report] have included the ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] at universities, which was lifted earlier this year, and the use of Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's Penal Code [text, in Turkish], which makes insulting "Turkishness" a crime, to silence government critics. AP has more.

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