Fri, May 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Shooting protest draws thousands

PUBLIC OUTRAGE One day after five judges were shot, marchers in Turkey paraded to the mausoleum of Ataturk to show their support for secularism


More than 15,000 Turks, from students to judges still dressed in their robes, marched yesterday in the capital to support secularism and to condemn a courtroom shooting that killed one judge and wounded four others.

A gunman opened fire on Wednesday inside Turkey's highest administrative court, shouting "I am a soldier of God," officials said. The suspect claimed his attack was retaliation for a recent ruling against a teacher who wore an Islamic-style headscarf, authorities said.

Yesterday, judicial officials, academics, union leaders, students and workers marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern and secular Turkey, in a show of loyalty to secularism.

They laid a wreath decorated with red and white carnations, the colors of the Turkish flag. Many carried the national flag. Some were tearful as they kissed the marble stones of the mausoleum.

"Turkey is secular and it will remain secular," thousands chanted in the demonstration, broadcast live on national TV.

After the march, Turkey's top three courts, the Supreme Court, Council of State and Appeals Court, issued a joint statement condemning the attack.

"This massacre attempt is directed against the secular republic ... We strongly denounce it," said the statement read by Sumru Cortoglu, head of the Council of State. "This attack will not intimidate us."

Thousands also are expected to attend the funeral for Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin. Among the four others wounded in the attack, at least one remained in intensive care yesterday.

Police captured the suspect after the attack, and two suspected accomplices were detailed yesterday. A search was under way for three others, TV reports said.

The attack has stoked tensions between the secular establishment and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, which has been trying to raise the profile of Islam in this predominantly Muslim but secular country.

Erdogan's government has made no secret of its desire to lift a ban on wearing head scarves in government buildings and universities, and had strongly and openly criticized the court's decision against the teacher in February.

The attack was denounced by the secular establishment, including judges, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the staunchly secular military, which pressured a pro-Islamic government out of power in 1997.

"This is the Sept. 11 of the Turkish Republic," wrote Ertugrul Ozkok, chief columnist for the daily Hurriyet. "One of the main pillars of the regime -- justice -- was hit. This is an attack against all of us."

Four of the judges -- including Ozbilgin -- had voted against promoting an elementary-school teacher who wore an Islamic-style head scarf outside work. The fifth had voted in favor.

The pro-Islamic Vakit newspaper condemned the attack but questioned whether it was a provocative move by the pro-secular establishment to justify a crack- down on the Islamic movement.

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