Hardline Turkish judges called proposed legal reforms unconstitutional on Monday.
The AK Party says the changes are needed to curb the powers of an entrenched judiciary and to bring Turkey closer to democratic norms needed to support the country's bid for EU membership. It also denies allegations of secularist jugdes that it has an Islamist agenda.
The government has begun lobbying opposition parties for support and has warned that it could hold a referendum to push through reforms if it cannot muster the two-thirds majority needed for parliament to approve the reform package.
"Turkey cannot continue with this constitution," Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek told reporters in Ankara. "These changes have to happen."
"We are trying to bring structures of the modern world to Turkey," Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told journalists in Ankara.
Judge Hasan Gerceker, chief of the Supreme Court of Appeals, branded the reforms "unconstitutional" in remarks broadcast on the NTV news channel.
"The government should avoid actions that could damage the principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary," Judge Gerceker claimed.
Civil courts for military personels
Another senior judge said the proposals "were not the answer to the problems of the judiciary."
"They are fooling around with the high court," said Kadir Ozbek, head of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which appoints senior members of courts.
The government wants to change the composition of the HSYK.
It also wants to make it harder to ban political parties, and pass responsibility to the president for appointing most of the Constitutional Court's judges.
The EU has criticised Turkey's political parties law, under which almost 20 parties have been banned since the constitution was adopted in 1982 following a coup.
The AK Party itself narrowly survived a court attempt in 2008 to close it down on the grounds that it contravened the country's secular constitution.
The government also aims to curb the influence of the once-untouchable military.
The proposals include a measure to allow military personnel to be put on trial in civilian courts for crimes committed against the security of the state and the constitutional order.
Dozens of officers, including retired and serving generals, have been charged in civilian courts in recent weeks in connection to alleged plots to unseat the AK government.
The government also proposed an amendment to strip leaders of the 1980 military coup of their immunity from prosecution.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mart 2010, 08:37