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Turkish secular judges warn ruling Islamic party against constitutional reforms

[JURIST] Secular Turkish judges have warned that amendments to the Turkish constitution [text; materials] proposed by the country's ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] that would include restructuring the Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] are going too far to promote an Islamic agenda. Head of the Council of State [official website, in Turkish], the country's high administrative court, Mustafa Birden said Saturday that an amendment that threatened secularism would violate both international and domestic law [Hurriyet report]. Birden called for a consensus among political parties [Today's Zaman report] on constitutional amendments. On Monday, chief judge of the Court of Appeals [official website, in Turkish] Hasan Gerceker, said that conditions are not right for constitutional amendments [Gercek Gundem report, in Turkish] at the moment and that the judiciary must maintain its independence and should not be chosen by political parties.

The judges' recent comments are the latest examples of tension between pro-secularists and the AKP. In July, the Constitutional Court narrowly rejected a bid to ban [JURIST reports] the AKP, which was accused of ignoring the secular principles of the country's constitution. Six of the 11 judges on the court favored dissolving the party, but seven would have been required to successfully pass the ban. The court agreed that the party violated the constitution's secular principles, but only ordered that the state treasury reduce the party's funding by half in response. Constitutional reforms are currently an issue as Turkey seeks European Union (EU) [official website] accession [criteria materials]. The EU has told Turkey to amend its constitution that was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

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