Turkey's highest court rejected a demand to outlaw the Islamist-rooted governing party AKP for undermining secularism in the country. The EU welcomed the ruling and called on Turkey to continue its reform process.
Six of the 11 judges voted in favor of closing down the Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- one vote short of the required majority, Court President Hasim Kilic said on Wednesday, July 30.
But he added that the court was still sending the party a "serious warning" by cutting half of the treasury funds it was entitled to this year.
"I hope the party in question will evaluate this outcome very well and get the message it should get," Kilic said.
AKP rejected the charges
Police have been patrolling outside the court building since Monday
The AKP had denied the charge of trying to create an Islamic state by stealth.
In his first remarks after Wednesday's court ruling, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the AKP would continue to uphold Turkey's secular values.
"The [AKP], which has never been a focal point of anti-secular activities, will continue to defend the basic principles of the republic," Erdogan said. "From now on, everybody -- and especially, we, the politicians -- have the responsibility not to drag Turkey into such a situation again."
Turkish Labor Minister Faruk Celik hailed the constitutional court ruling as a victory for democracy, according to CNN Turk.
The verdict was also greeted by cheers from AKP politicians watching a televised broadcast of the ruling in parliament.
"For our democratic development this is a very important decision," Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay told NTV.
The main evidence that Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya presented to the court was his claim that attempts by Erdogan's government to allow women to wear Islamic-style headscarves at universities were evidence that the party aimed to impose Islamic-style law.
Politicians across the EU were relieved by the court's decision
The European Union welcomed the court's decision as "good news," adding that the ruling should help lend political stability in the EU's biggest candidate country.
"Of course we have to read it now in more detail, but it is positive," said Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "Turkey is living a tense situation and we very much hope that the decision by the court will contribute to restore political stability."
European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn said he hoped Turkey's political parties would work toward sustainable reforms based on broad-based dialogue.
"I encourage Turkey now to resume with full energy its reforms to modernize the country," Rehn said in a statement.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was relieved by the decision.
"Now it is important that all decision-makers make a contribution to reconciliation and political stability and stick to the path of reform," he said in a statement.
History of confrontation
The AKP's attempt to lift a headscarf ban in universities led to protests earlier this year
Since the 1960s, Turkish courts have banned more than 20 political parties -- most of them pro-Kurdish or pro-Islamist -- for purportedly threatening the country's secularist principles. This is, however, the first time that a party with a huge majority has faced such a threat.
The decision also means that no politicians will be barred. Chief Prosecutor Yalcinkaya had sought to have more than 71 AKP members excluded from participating in party politics, including the President Abdullah Gul and the prime minister.