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‘Infidels’ fidelity in question indefinitely

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FILE - May 1996 file photo of Necmettin Erbakan, then Turkey's first Islamic Prime Minister, right, and his liberal deputy Tansu Ciller, during a press conference in Ankara. An appeals court in Diyarbakir on Wednesday, July 5, 2000 upheld a one-year prison sentence imposed on Erbakan for a 1994 speech in which he challenged Turkey's secular laws.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici/File) 

July 6, 2000 


ANKARA (AP) - An appeals court on Wednesday upheld a one-year prison sentence imposed on a former premier who challenged secular rule and called deputies "infidels," the Anatolia news agency said.

The decision bars Necmettin Erbakan, who led Turkey's Islamic movement for nearly three decades, from active politics indefinitely. Erbakan, 72, was banned from politics for five years in 1998 when his Welfare Party was shut down for anti-secular activities.

Erbakan was convicted in March by a court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir for a 1994 speech in which he criticized the fact that Turkish students open their school day by reciting nationalist slogans and not Koranic verses. He also described pro-secular deputies as "infidels."

Wednesday's decision came a month after Prosecutor Baki Coban urged the court to uphold the verdict. Erbakan's lawyers has one last right to appeal the decision only on technical grounds.

Secularism is staunchly enforced in Turkey and criticizing secularism can be considered illegal under laws that bar inciting hatred based on religious differences.

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