[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] began proceedings on Monday to determine whether to ban [JURIST news archive] the country's ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish], which has allegedly failed to respect secular principles of the country's constitution [text]. In March, Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya [official profile, in Turkish] petitioned the court to disband the AKP and bar Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul [BBC profiles] from political office. The AKP filed a response [IPS report] to the dissolution petition in May, arguing that shutting down the party would leave a political void endangering Turkey's democracy. Opponents of the party have said that party officials will likely take revenge on the opposition if not banned, but Erdogan has denied the accusations [Hurriyet report], though his party had previously threatened to change the country's constitution [JURIST report] to avoid the challenge. AP has more. Hurriyet has local coverage.
In May, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering [official website] said [JURIST report] it would be "absurd" for the court to close the party, since it had come to power through democratic means, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official website] warned [JURIST report] in March that the closure of the AKP could be detrimental to Turkey's effort to join the European Union [JURIST news archive]. The party recently attracted a great deal of criticism and media attention for trying to lift a ban [JURIST news archive] on the wearing of headscarves in institutions of higher learning.