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Turkish minority party files suit to block proposed constitutional amendments

Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website, in Turkish] filed suit [press release, in Turkish] in the country's Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] Friday in an effort to halt proposed constitutional amendments offered by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. The CHP is challenging reforms that seek to restructure the judiciary, claiming they compromise judicial independence [Hurriyet report] and represent an improper AKP attempt to fortify its power [Reuters report]. The suit also claims that the AKP committed several procedural errors when introducing the proposal. It is unknown when or how the court might rule, though a decision in favor of CHP may expedite elections currently scheduled in July 2011. The reform package is subject to a referendum currently slated for September 12.

The amendments [text, in Turkish] were approved [JURIST report] by the Turkish Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish] last week. Last month, the AKP submitted a revised version [JURIST report] of their proposed amendments, including a proposal to alter Article 157 of the Constitution [text, in Turkish] so that judges of the Military Supreme Administrative Court would have judicial immunity and be shielded from spurious claims. An earlier version of AKP's proposal was submitted [JURIST report] a week prior and contained seven revisions [Hurriyet report] from the package originally unveiled [JURIST report] at the end of March. Included amongst the changes were a highly-disputed reform to the judiciary system that would allow military and government officials to be tried in civilian court, another that would make it harder for the government to disband political parties that challenge the country's nationalist establishment, and a provision that would prohibit the prosecution of the 1980 coup leaders. AKP says it created the amendments to promote democracy in Turkey and support its bid into the European Union (EU) [official website].

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