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Turkish court annuls headscarf reform

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Latest update : 2008-06-05

Turkey's top court annulled a parliamentary reform allowing female students to wear the Islamic veil at universities, dealing a blow to the ruling AK Party's efforts to circumvent the Turkish constitution's strict secular principles.

Turkey's top court annulled a reform on Thursday that would allow students to wear Muslim headscarves at university, a serious blow to the ruling party's efforts to avert being shut down for Islamist activities.

The Constitutional Court said in a statement it upheld an appeal from an opposition party, which sought to block an amendment passed by parliament in February that would have allowed students to wear the garment on campus, a move secularists said would undermine the secular state.

The headscarf reform plays a central role in a separate court case that seeks to shut down the AK Party for anti-secular activities, and ban 71 members, including the prime minister and the president, from belonging to a political party for five years.

The Constitutional Court said the headscarf reform was contrary to secular principles in the constitution, a ruling that is bound to strengthen the case to shut the ruling AK Party, analysts said.

The Turkish lira weakened against the dollar on the news, with markets fearing prolonged political uncertainty in the European Union-applicant country.

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek was reported by broadcaster CNN Turk as saying he would comment once he had read the court's ruling.

"We must see the justification for the decision," Cicek, who is also government spokesman, was reported as saying. Lifting the headscarf ban was one of the most significant moves on religious issues in predominantly Muslim but secular Turkey since a military coup in 1980 that led to a crackdown on individual rights.

The secularist establishment, which includes army generals, judges and university rectors, fears ending the ban would undermine secularism, one of the founding principles of the modern Turkish republic.

The AK Party says the right to wear the headscarf at university is a personal and religious freedom.

Date created : 2008-06-05

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