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January 16, 1998:Turkey court bans Welfare Party

Decision made because of evidence confirming its actions against the principles of the secular republic

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
Former Turkish Prime Minister and Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan appeals his supporters to be calm.
Gulf News

1998 Turkey’s judiciary dissolved the main opposition Welfare Party and slapped a five-year political ban on former prime minister and party leader Necmettin Erbakan in an anti-Islamist crackdown. “The court decided to close the Welfare Party because of evidence confirming its actions against the principles of the secular republic,” constitutional court chief Ahmet Necdet Sezer said as he read the verdict. Welfare, the biggest party in parliament, upset Turkey’s secularist elite with plans for mild Islamist reforms during a stormy year in government that ended when Erbakan resigned as premier under strong army pressure. Erbakan, 71, is now barred from political leadership for five years and loses his status as a member of parliament. He vowed to dispute the verdict in Europe, where Turkey’s commitment to democracy is increasingly being questioned. The attorney-general had argued that Welfare tried to turn Turkey into an Islamic state like Iran. Most of Welfare’s 158 MPs in the 550-member national assembly automatically become independent deputies and will still be a formidable opposition force.

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