May 18, 2006

Three detained over Turkish judge killing

By Inci Ozturk

ANKARA (Reuters) - Police have detained three more men for
questioning in connection with the killing of a top Turkish
judge, state-run Anatolian news agency said on Thursday.

Police were not immediately available for comment on the
arrests after an attack that raised tensions between the
secular establishment and the religious-minded government.

A lawyer stormed into a chamber of the country's top
administrative court in on Wednesday, shooting dead one senior
judge and injuring four other judges while shouting he was a
soldier of Allah.

The suspected Islamic gunman, in his late 20s, was detained
shortly after the attack in the capital. Three more men aged
between 22 and 50 were detained late on Wednesday, Anatolian
news agency said.

The administrative court, or the Council of State, has come
under intense criticism from Islamists for its strict upholding
of Turkey's secular laws, especially the ban on wearing
Islamic-style headscarves in universities and public offices.

Turkey's political leaders have condemned the attack, which
has shaken the secular but largely Muslim state.

Judges and professors led more than 10,000 people to
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's mausoleum on Thursday to pay homage to
the Republic's founder to mark their support for secularism.

"We will not be intimidated," said Council of State
President Sumru Cortoglu.

The council's deputy chairwoman said the assailant had
targeted the judges because of a ruling in February preventing
a woman from becoming a headteacher because she wore a

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP), which has roots in political Islam,
have also criticised the ruling and called for easing of the
headscarf ban. Erdogan's wife wears a headscarf.

The ban began in the 1980s but dates back to Ataturk, who
abolished religious dress and adopted a Swiss-style legal code
in 1926.


The attack is seen as a setback for the AKP in its quest to
ease limits on the headscarf, worn by most women in Turkey as a
sign of devoutness. The AKP came to power in 2002 partly on the
promise of easing the ban and elections are again due next

Tensions between Turkey's secularist establishment -- which
includes the judiciary and the military -- and those they
perceive as Islamists bent on reviving the influence of
religion in national life have escalated in recent months.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer warned last month that Turkey
faced a growing threat from Islamic fundamentalists.

Secularists accuse the popular AKP of having a hidden
Islamist agenda and point to recent attempts to restrict
alcohol consumption and ease restrictions on religious
education. The AKP denies this.

Turkey's armed forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of
the secular system and as recently as 1997 helped push out a
government they perceived as tilting in an Islamist direction.

The country's largest newspaper Hurriyet on Thursday called
on Turks to unite to defend secularism.

"Most of all we have to see the government, which is rowing
backwards, as responsible," wrote Milliyet columnist Taha

Islamic militants, Kurdish separatists and far-leftists
have all carried out attacks in Turkey, which began European
Union accession talks last October, in recent years.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Grove and Daren Butler)