Prosecutor`s headscarf warning angers Turkish govt

Turkey`s ruling party seeks to abolish ban on Islamic headscarf in varsities.

Last Updated: Oct 21, 2010, 10:52 AM IST

Ankara: Turkey`s chief prosecutor on Wednesday warned that lifting a ban on the Islamic headscarf in universities would undermine secularism, prompting the Islamist-rooted ruling party to accuse him of meddling in politics.

The row erupted after an initiative by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) aimed at seeking a parliamentary compromise to abolish the ban, an issue which has long polarised the mainly Muslim but officially secular nation.

"Allowing the use of the headscarf (in universities)... would constitute a breach of the principle of secularism because it would base a public law arrangement on religious grounds," the office of chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya said in a statement.

Turkish courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have both ruled that wearing the headscarf on campus "is not protected as part of freedom of religion and is not compatible with the principle of secularism," it said.

"Statements to the contrary by political circles are motivated by political interests," it charged, warning that "all political parties will be responsible" if existing principles were breached.

A few hours later, the AKP hit back at the prosecutor, saying his statement was "unacceptable".

"The prosecutor`s statement... is an open intervention into the parliamentary democratic regime," the AKP`s parliamentary group said in a statement.

"No person, body or office can give orders or directives to the parliament," it added.

The AKP said that Parliament alone had the authority to act on and pass laws on individual, communal or institutional demands for more rights and freedoms.

"Those who have judicial power are tasked with implementing laws passed by the parliament and not by making laws. The chief prosecutor does not have a preventative legal authority," it added.

The war of words broke out shortly after AKP officials held talks with opposition lawmakers in a bid to hammer out a compromise to end the ban.

After the meetings, the main opposition Republican People`s Party (CHP) accused the government of hiding a covert Islamist agenda.

PTI