A judicial coup (March 2008)
On January 17 2008, Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya (photo) warned the AKP that its attempt "to lift the headscarf ban" would have serious consequences. In a written statement, he warned that the reform would generate social discord, and that universities would become centres of anti-secular activity. He noted that the judiciary would take action against any political parties whose policies led to such a situation:
"The chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals stated that lifting the ban on the headscarf would harm the principle of secularity. The prosecutor stated: 'the sanctions, for parties that do not comply with the rules, are obvious.'" (Sabah)
Yalcinkaya's was not the only such warning. Retired General Dogu Silahcioglu advocated closing down the AKP in a Cumhurriyet article on February 3:
"Regardless of statements made, political Islam has taken over the Republic of Turkey. There is only one option left in the fight against political Islam. That is the elimination of the AKP government…'"
Silahcioglu suggested a method to topple the government:
"To file a lawsuit by the chief prosecutor in the Constitutional Court against the AKP for being the centre of anti-secular activities and to seek the closure of the AKP…"
In fact, on 14 March 2008, Yalcinkaya applied to the Turkish Constitutional Court to close the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The indictment seeks not only a ban on the party for it acts against secularism, but recommends that 71 politicians, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, be banned from politics. On 31 March 2008, the Constitutional Court decided unanimously to accept the case. The AKP was granted one month to prepare its defence.
Most media in Turkey have condemned the proceeding. On March 15 2008, the daily Radikal headlined "It's enough, what next?" Taraf daily wrote: "Put the Prosecutor on trial". The Industrialist's Association TUSIAD criticised the motion as "unacceptable." On 17 March 2008 Sahin Alpay commented in Today's Zaman: "The status quo fights back."
The opposition CHP noted, however, that decisions of the courts "must be respected". Deniz Baykal, the CHP chairperson said: "the indictment is a legal one. It was not prepared with political aims and hostility; and it does not reflect emotional reactions. It was prepared objectively and within the borders of laws and responsibility."
The EU and European politicians have also expressed their concern. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said: "It is difficult to see that this lawsuit respects the democratic principles of a normal European society." Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the AKP government was made up of "profound European reformers" and the prosecutor's action "takes the concept of the bizarre application of laws to astronomical heights."