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Turkey's PM says might seek to curtail top court
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he might seek to trim the powers of the constitutional court after it stopped the government lifting a ban on women wearing headscarves at university.
In a setback to the Islamist-rooted AK Party, the constitutional court in June overturned an amendment to lift the restriction, saying it violated Turkey's secular constitution.
"I have to say openly that the constitutional court is not above the constitution, and according to our constitution basic rights and freedoms are determined by laws, not by interpretations," Erdogan told a news conference.
Some AK deputies, parliament speaker Koksal Toptan and the leader of nationalist opposition party MHP Devlet Bahceli have all suggested limiting the powers of the court, saying it had violated the principle of separation of powers.
Asked if the AK Party would support such a move, Erdogan said: "We are ready to do work which would yield positive results for the country."
The main opposition party, the staunchly secularist CHP, has said it would not support such changes.
The court is a bastion of the secularist establishment, which is deeply suspicious of the AK Party. It accuses the party of harbouring an Islamist agenda. The AK Party denies this.
The headscarf issue is one of the most highly charged in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a secular constitution, and has long been a source of political instability in the European Union applicant.
The court, in a legal reasoning published on Wednesday, ruled out a revival of the controversial headscarf issue until a new constitution is written.
The prospects of changing the constitution anytime soon are slim because Turkey is deeply polarised over the role of Islam.
The headscarf reform was seen as a catalyst for a separate case, in which the same court narrowly voted in July not to close the AK Party on charges of Islamist activities. The court is expected to issue the reasoning for that verdict on Friday.
(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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