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Turkish court rejects ban on ruling party

  • Story Highlights
  • Turkey's Constitutional Court rejects a proposed ban on the country's ruling party
  • Six of 11 justices voted to ban the party but seven votes were needed
  • AKP will face a financial penalty rather than being forced to close
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's Constitutional Court has rejected a proposed ban on the country's Islamic-rooted ruling party -- the Justice and Development Party, or AKP -- for alleged anti-secularist activities, the leader of the court said Wednesday.

Turkey's Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The party of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan's faces possible closure for alleged anti-secular activity.

Six justices voted in favor of banning the party, four voted for financial penalties and one justice rejected the case, court leader Hasim Kilic said.

Seven of the 11 justices would have had to vote in favor of the ban for it to pass. Instead, the court ruled that the AKP will lose half of its government funding, he said.

The penalties will apply to funds the AKP was to receive next year, meaning it will get about 23 million Turkish lira, or just over $19 million -- according to Turkey's treasury.

President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and former parliament speaker Bulent Arinc were among the 71 party members the prosecutor wanted banned from public office for the next five years. Video Watch what the decision means »

The case marked the pinnacle of the sharp and serious political tensions between the AKP and its outspoken critics from the nation's secularist establishment. Those critics believe the AKP is intent on undermining the secular constitution and nature of the modern Turkish state and on intimidating political opposition.

Secularists were outraged at the AKP's recent attempt to lift bans on headscarves at public universities. The move failed after the Constitutional Court overturned the amendment in June.

Headcoverings were banned in the early 1980s by Turkey's universities because they were seen as political symbols and conflicted with the nation's secular governing system.

The government accuses its critics of using the courts to try to deny the AKP its legitimate victory from last year's elections. AKP says it is promoting democracy and pursuing goals that would bring Turkey into the European Union.

Since late last year, police have been arresting people accused of being part of Ergenekon, a group alleged to be conspiring to overthrow the government. Earlier this month, 86 of those arrested -- including former generals, businessmen, and prominent journalists -- were charged in connection with the alleged coup plot.

Turkey's economy has prospered under AKP rule and Turkey maintains positive relations with a variety of countries, including Iran, Iraq, the United States and Israel.

But recent attacks blamed on Kurdish separatists and the ongoing political crisis have put that progress at risk. Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, was hit Sunday by its deadliest terrorist attack in five years. An explosion -- which happened a day before the Constitutional Court convened on the AKP ban -- killed 17 people, including a 3-year-old child, and sparked immediate outrage. The government blamed Kurdish rebels, but the Kurdistan Workers' Party -- or PKK -- posted a statement on its Web site denying any involvement.

Turkey, a strong U.S. ally and NATO member, is a democratic state and has long been regarded as a bridge from Asia and Europe and from the West to the Muslim world.

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Although it is a predominantly Muslim nation, it has taken the trappings of religion out of public life, in accordance with the policies of Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of the modern Turkish republic.

AKP is not the first political party that Turkey's courts have tried to close. More than 20 political parties have been banned by Turkey's judicial system in recent decades.

CNN's Talia Kayali and Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.

All About TurkeyIslamRecep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish Justice and Development PartyEuropean UnionKurdistan Workers' Party

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