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Turkey Keeps Heat on Islamic Party

October 28, 1998

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Keeping the pressure on Turkey’s Islamic movement, authorities are seeking to prosecute the leader of the country’s new Islamic party, the Anatolia news agency said.

Ankara’s chief prosecutor has asked Parliament to lift the immunity of deputy Recai Kutan, who has been accused of allegedly insulting members of a minority Muslim sect that backs the country’s secular establishment.

In a speech earlier this month, Kutan, leader of the Virtue Party, criticized Syrian leader Hafez Assad for purportedly supporting Kurdish rebels.

In the speech, Kutan compared Assad to a member of a ``deviated kind of Alawite sect″ _ a reference to the Muslim minority that opposes the rise of radical Islam.

Assad and some of Syria’s top military officers belong to Syria’s Alawite minority. Kutan has said his words were aimed at the Syrian leader and not the religious sect.

The Constitutional Court earlier this year disbanded Virtue’s predecessor, the Islamic Welfare Party, for anti-secular activity and slapped a five-year ban from politics on its leader, former Premier Necmettin Erbakan.

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