Turkish court rules president should stand trial on corruption charges

[JURIST] A Turkish court ruled on Monday that President Abdullah Gul [BBC profile] should face trial for corruption allegations stemming from a previous misappropriation of treasury funds. The Sincan High Criminal Court in Ankara held [Hurriyet report] that Gul should face trial despite his immunity as president and the previous dismissal of proceedings by the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office. Former justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk has said that, while Gul can not currently face judgment due to presidential immunity, he will be able to be tried after his term ends. Gul's present immunity is unclear although some legal scholars argue that presidential immunity should not apply for personal acts that are not related to presidential duties. The alleged acts of fraud stem from accusations against the Welfare Party regarding misappropriation of treasury funds after the party was banned in 1997. Other members of the party were later convicted of fraud. Former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, the founder of the party, was found guilty but was pardoned last year by Gul. Monday's ruling is still subject to appellate review [BBC report].

The court's decision may be an example of the existing tension between pro-secularists and the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [official website, in Turkish], of which Gul was a cofounder. Earlier this month, secular Turkish judges warned [JURIST report] that amendments to the Turkish Constitution [text] proposed by the AKP that would result in the restructuring of the Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] were going too far in promoting an Islamic agenda. In July, the Constitutional Court narrowly rejected a bid to ban the AKP [JURIST report] for ignoring the secular principles of the Turkish constitution. The court did not dissolve the party but ordered that the state treasury reduce the party's funding by half.

 

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