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Turkish ex-PM allowed to serve jail term at home

By Staff
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ANKARA, Feb 24 (Reuters) Turkey's parliament approved a law late yesterday allowing former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to serve a suspended 11-month jail sentence at home because of his advanced age.

rbakan, who is 80 this year, was among scores of Islamists charged with misappropriating 11 million lira (8.16 million dollar) of funds from their now-defunct Welfare Party. His jail sentence had been postponed several times due to ill health.

Under the new law, backed by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a successor party to Welfare, people over the age of 75 receiving jail terms of three years or less can serve out their sentences at home.

Erbakan and his colleagues are still required to pay back the missing funds to the Turkish Treasury, but no timeframe has been set.

Erbakan served as prime minister in a coalition with secular conservatives for a year, until the army nudged him from office in June 1997 after deciding he posed a threat to Turkey's secular political order.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AKP traces its roots back to banned Islamist parties such as Welfare, though he has steered a more pro-Western course than Erbakan.

The AKP denies having any secret Islamist agenda, but the secular establishment, including the powerful military, monitors its actions closely and sometimes clashes with the government.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a staunch secularist who is also tough on corruption, must still approve the new law, though parliament can override any presidential veto at a second try.

Opposition lawmakers say the new law amounts to a personal amnesty for Erbakan.

REUTERS CH PM1511

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