INTERNATIONAL

Court relief for Erdogan

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s top court said on Wednesday it would not ban the ruling party for allegedly trying to steer the country toward Islamist rule, a decision that preserves a government locked in a power struggle with the secular elite.

The Constitutional Court, however, delivered a strong warning to the governing Justice and Development Party and said it would be deprived of half of its funding from the state treasury.

“The decision was a warning, a serious warning,” said court Chairman Hasim Kilic after three days of deliberations. He said six of the 11 judges wanted to ban the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However,seven votes were needed under court regulations.

The decision represented a reprieve for Mr. Erdogan and his allies in an overwhelmingly Muslim country with a secular system that seeks to join the European Union. A decision to ban the party would have triggered a sharp escalation in political turmoil in the NATO member, where a bomb attack on Sunday killed 17 people in a mostly residential area of Istanbul.

A ban would have severely damaged Turkey’s image as a democracy because the ruling party won a strong majority in elections last year; EU leaders have said the ruling party’s viability should be decided in elections, not courtrooms. In March, Turkey’s chief prosecutor asked the Court to disband Mr. Erdogan’s party and bar him and 70 other party members from joining a political party for five years. — AP

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