(Reuters) – Following are brief descriptions of the main protagonists in the Turkish court case in which the ruling AK Party is charged with Islamist activities:
TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER
Erdogan, 54, accused by a prosecutor of Islamist activities and faces a possible ban from party politics for five years. He denies the charges. Erdogan is AK Party leader and Turkey’s most popular and charismatic politician. He has presided over strong economic growth and the historic launch of European Union membership talks since becoming premier in 2003. He is mistrusted by Turkey’s secularist elite because of his Islamist past. A former mayor of Istanbul, he served a short jail sentence in 1999 for reading a poem deemed too Islamist at a public rally. Erdogan has been accused of contributing to the polarization of Turkey’s society.
ABDULLAH GUL, PRESIDENT
Gul, 57, is accused of Islamist activities and faces a possible ban from party politics for five years. As head of state he is no longer an AK Party member. Were he to be banned it would not be enforced until his term ended. Gul was appointed president by the AK Party-controlled parliament in August 2007. He earned international respect as an architect of Turkey’s EU membership bid. He is viewed with suspicion by the secularist elite because of his Islamist past. Critics accuse him of approving all appointments and laws presented by the AK Party.
HASIM KILIC, CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN
As chief judge Kilic is known to be a conservative and close to AK Party policies. He will play a key role when the 11 judges vote on the closure case. In several recent cases he has voted in favor of the government. He is one of the oldest members of the court. Kilic opposed the closure of two earlier Islamist parties. Gul appointed him chairman of the court in October last year after eight years as deputy chairman.
OSMAN PAKSUT, CONSTITIONAL COURT DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Considered a hardliner and expected to vote in favour of banning the AK Party. He has been fairly vocal in defense of secularism in Turkey. Media have highlighted meetings he held with the head of land forces, General Ilker Basbug, before the AK Party case opened. He has complained about being trailed by police intelligence this year.
ABDURRAHMAN YALCINKAYA, COURT OF APPEALS PROSECUTOR
A staunch secularist, he has launched several cases to close political parties. He is the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals. Yalcinkaya has been criticized for presenting a case lacking detailed evidence against the AK Party and its members and instead basing much of his case on speeches and newspaper reports. He was appointed by secularist former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
YASAR BUYUKANIT, ARMED FORCES CHIEF
General Buyukanit is due to retire next month. He has been a critic of the AK Party and believed to have warned the government not to appoint Gul as president last year. Buyukanit has remained quiet over the closure case. He has criticized what he says is an increasing presence of religion in public life.
DENIZ BAYKAL, OPPOSITION LEADER
Baykal, 70, is veteran leader of the main opposition, staunchly secular Republican People’s Party (CHP). Liberals accuse him of taking the centre-left party down a nationalist path and backing efforts, sometimes viewed as undemocratic, by the secularist elite to topple the AK Party. Baykal was foreign minister in 1995-96. He studied at U.S. universities but has been a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq. He is accused of contributing to the polarization of Turkey.
CEMIL CICEK, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
Cicek, a lawyer and former justice minister, has defended the AK Party in the court case. He is considered a leading figure of the nationalist group in the party. He is not one of the 71 leading figures facing a ban from politics. Cicek has been mentioned as a possible candidate to take over as acting prime minister were Erdogan to be banned.